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Salons hoping to help victims of domestic abuse

Monday, January 30, 2006

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- Kaci Horstman knows that people tend to talk in beauty shops and salons. As a stylist for more than seven years, Horstman sometimes becomes an impromptu therapist as women will tell their darkest secrets.

And that's why she thinks the "Cut it out" campaign is such a good idea to fight domestic abuse.

The nationwide effort builds awareness of domestic abuse in salons and gives beauticians reference material on how to spot potential abuse. Participating salons also are given cards with information to give to women about what to do if they're being abused.

"I think it's a great idea," said Horstman, who manages the salon at J.C. Penney Co. "A lot of women come in here, and for some reason they talk to us."

About half of St. Joseph salons already are involved in the program, said Crissy Phillips, volunteer coordinator for the YWCA. She hopes to have all city salons participating in the campaign by the end of February.

"It's been received really well. All the salons we've contacted, with the exception of one or two, have been really receptive," Phillips said. "We weren't sure how the community was going to respond ... domestic violence isn't an issue a lot of people like to talk about."

But not talking about it is the problem, she said. About a third of all women will be abused by an intimate partner during their lifetime, Phillips said. And she's concerned that domestic violence may be increasing throughout the city.

"The (YWCA) in general has noticed over the last six or seven months a steady increase in women and children at the shelter," she said. "Domestic violence is growing in St. Joseph, and a lot of people are stepping forward."

Last year, 551 women used the St. Joseph shelter at the YWCA who were either homeless or escaping an abusive situation.

"A lot of times they'll come in and say they're homeless, but you see bruises," Phillips said. "They don't want to admit they're being abused, so it's hard to say how many are actually homeless."

St. Joseph Police detective Trenny Wilson said domestic abuse cases tend to be habitual in nature.

"There's so many when you deal with the same people over and over, but not necessarily with the same partner," she said. "It will be the same person but with a different boyfriend or girlfriend."

And while the domestic abuser is usually the male in the relationship, Wilson said it's not uncommon to see the female be the antagonist.

"There are a lot of circumstances where the female is the aggressor, but more times than not it's the male," Wilson said.

For salons wanting to receive free cards and posters or for more information about the "Cut it out" campaign, visit cutitout.org.

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