More than 200 hair and beauty professionals in Norfolk have been given training on domestic abuse, giving them the tools and confidence to know what to do if they suspect a client is in trouble.
In January 2017, 27-year-old Joe Storey murdered his girlfriend, Kerri McAuley at her Norwich flat. He was jailed for life. When the 32-year-old feared for her safety, it was her hairdresser she confided in. The appointment, three weeks before Kerri’s death, was one that hairdresser Annie Reilly remembers with total clarity.
“She turned around and said to me, ‘I know he’s going to kill me’,” Reilly told the BBC, “They were words I never thought I’d hear any of my clients say.”
An official report, known as a domestic homicide review, into Kerri’s death concluded that although the police, the probation service, the Crown Prosecution Service and social services had acted, they had all missed opportunities to keep her safe.
It also made a number of recommendations, including the suggestion of an awareness campaign aimed at hairdressers and beauticians as potential confidants of domestic abuse victims.
Article 2 of the Human Rights Convention, the right to life, means that domestic violence victims have a right for “the state’s systems to be designed so that they protect life”.
Last month, Norfolk County Council (NCC) put the advice into action, with free domestic abuse training for hairdressers and beauty therapists taking place in Norwich.
Lending An Ear And Taking The Next Step
“Professionals in these industries are often disclosed personal information that their clients may feel uncomfortable discussing with friends or family,” says the local authority, with the training teaching those in the sector what to say and how to react should a customer disclose domestic abuse or show signs of physical or non-physical abuse.
Thankfully she is now free of her abuser…allowing her and her children to live and not be scared.
Hairdresser Annie Reilly speaks about helping another client
“I’ve been in the hair industry for nine years, and when I started, never did I think I would become an ear for clients for all sorts of problems, the biggest one being domestic violence and abuse,” Reilly told RightsInfo.
She continued: “Since being in this industry I’ve advised and helped victims to the best of my ability. Just by listening to them is a big weight off them, and not judging them gives them the confidence needed to take the next step and free themselves from their abusers. I’ve offered refuge to a few of my clients myself.”
It’s training which remains hugely relevant and needed for those in hair and beauty, with Reilly taking a young lady into her home under police protection at the end of last year.
“Thankfully she is now free of her abuser and he’s been sent to prison,” the hairdresser says, “allowing her and her children to live and not be scared.”
‘The More Ears The Better’
Image Credit: Hai Phung / Unsplash
Taling to RightsInfo, Reilly stresses just how important this new training scheme is and wants other councils and hairdressers across the country to follow Norfolk’s lead.
In the UK, one in four women, and one in six men, experience domestic abuse. Two women are murdered each week, and three take their own lives.
“We as service providers for the beauty industry are in a position where we can speak confidentially to our clients. It can potentially save lives. The more ears the better. I learned so much from the training,” Reilly says.
“Both men and women tend to relax once having hair or beauty treatments and open up a lot more to us than their own family and friends. They tend not to talk to those closest to them out of fear for their safety too, because sadly domestic violence affects not just the victim, but also their friends and family.”
Cllr Margaret Dewsbury, Chair of the Communities Committee at Norfolk County Council, added: “Domestic abuse is regrettably widespread across Norfolk, and it’s so important that we take every opportunity to raise awareness of this subject.”