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Hairstylists are in a unique position to help combat domestic violence.
That’s the message Middlesex County District Attorney Marian T. Ryan brought to Nashoba Valley Technical High School recently.
Ryan brought to Nashoba Tech the DA Office’s “Cut It Out” program, which is geared specifically to students studying Cosmetology, although students from other service-oriented programs, including Health Assisting, Dental Assisting, Banking/Marketing/Retail and Culinary Arts, also attended her talk.
After Ryan talked to the students about the prevalence of domestic violence, Cosmetology students cut the hair and performed manicures on nine survivors of domestic abuse from programs based in Concord and Somerville.
Ryan told the Cosmetology students that hairstylists form a unique bond with clients like no other profession.
“I have known the person who does my hair longer than I’ve known my husband,” she told the students. “It’s often the only opportunity you’ll have to say things to someone who you’re not going to see at your house or at holidays.”
She told the students that abusive people try to injure their victims in ways that people can’t see.
“If I’m an abuser and I don’t want to get caught, I don’t want people to see what I’m doing to my mate,” she said. “You can only give someone a black eye so many times before people start to get suspicious.”
She said abusers often pull out chunks of a victim’s hair, which can be hard for the average person to notice.
“If I’m working at a salon, I’m going to see that,” she said. “You have a unique opportunity to see these injuries. Think about what an enormous difference you could be making.”
Nashoba Tech Superintendent Dr. Judith L. Klimkiewicz is proud that Nashoba Tech was the first high school to take part in the Cut It Out program, which Ryan originated when she was an assistant district attorney.
“This is the seventh year they’ve come to talk to the kids about the Cut It Out program, and I think it’s the perfect way to get the DA’s Office involved with technical schools,” Dr. Klimkiewicz said. “These kids need to hear that this is going on and that they can help.”
Ryan said the Cut It Out program has started branching into professional salons, but she said it’s important to get hairdressers to notice the signs of abuse when they’re first learning their profession.
“Kids have a natural capacity to want to be helpful,” she said. “The kids are great, and they get this. Unfortunately, many of them probably have friends or family members who have been in abusive relationships, so it’s not a foreign topic for them.”
Nashoba Tech’s school resource officer, Westford Police Detective Joseph Eracleo, sat in on Ryan’s talk and was impressed.
“It was very educational, and it can help our students personally, for themselves, and their loved ones and the people they care about,” Eracleo said.