Cut It Out: Training for hairdressers to recognise the signs of domestic abuse so victims 'know they are not alone'

  • Watch the full report by Jane Hesketh, ITV News Central

A campaign has been launched in Halesowen in Dudley to help stylists and hairdressers recognise the signs of domestic abuse when in conversation with their customers.

The idea is that men and women feel comfortable talking to their stylists in these environments, and so staff can receive training so they can point people in the right direction for help, if they want it. 

Samantha Billingham left her violent partner in 2006. She was subjected to a torrent of physical and psychological abuse during a three-year relationship.

"For me it was when my ex perpetrator slapped me splitting my lip open while holding my 10 month old daughter, in my arms," she says. 

"That was my wake up call and I knew I had to leave then, so she saved my life."Samantha has since dedicated her life to helping victims of physical or mental abuse at the hands of their partner.

She founded Survivors of Domestic Abuse (SODA) which encourages conversation and a community of survivors helping each other overcome the trauma.

Now she's organising the Cut It Out campaign in Halesowen, to give domestic violence awareness training to hairdressers, beauty therapists and tattooists.

Samantha Billingham has been meeting with hair, beauty and tattoo businesses in Halesowen Credit: Samantha Billingham

Learners at the Kings and Queens Training Academy are all too keen to get involved.

Trainee Lorrell McNeil says, "by signing up to be a hairdresser you are agreeing to work with the public and help people. 

"You take on that responsibility when you sign the contract.

"A lot of people find a salon as a safe haven , where they can get away from everything and that is important"

Hair and beauty salons are uniquely placed to be somewhere you can share a confidence with someone you trust, in a safe space. 

Kings and Queens Academy owner Gail Wood says, "Its a big thing getting the awareness out there, and the learners are well up for knowing more about it. 

"I think its got to be put out there and people shouldn't be ashamed"

Samantha says, "For many victims, they don't know who they can trust and speak out to.

"We're hoping the Cut It Out campaign will give them the confidence to do that.

"We want them to put up a poster, so that victims are given confidence and know they are not alone and there are people willing to help them"

The number of calls to domestic violence helplines has increased during lockdown, and as more places are opening up the town centre manager is keen they get on board with the initiative.

Vicky Rogers from Halesowen BID says, "people put trust in those delivering personal services. 

"They open up because they can become friends, not just someone doing a service.  If they disclose something of concern, the hairdressers or barbers will know how to signpost them so they can get help."

A number of tattoo parlours, nail bars, barbers and hairdressers in Halesowen have already signed up for the training. 

It's hoped the scheme can eventually be rolled out across the whole of the West Midlands.

How a hair stylist or barber might be able to spot the signs of domestic abuse:

  • In many cases domestic abuse is more about power and control than physical violence, so the Cut It Out campaign aims to raise awareness of coercive control

  • For example, clients asking for a receipt could be a victim of financial abuse

  • A client might suddenly and drastically change their hairstyle after verbal abuse or controlling behaviour from their perpetrator

  • Look out for body language and any changes of character - a client might be less talkative than usual, or looking away instead of using eye contact

  • In some cases, a controlling perpetrator might even call the salon to check they are there, or sit in the salon during the treatment

  • In cases of physical violence - a client might flinch more easily when the hairdresser touches parts of their head, neck or shoulders.

  • A hairdresser does not need to get fully involved, but by listening, responding and referring the client to a help service they could save a life.

Help and support

If you need support or advice about anything visit to our advice page.

Call the 24-hour National Domestic Abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247 for confidential, non-judgemental information and support.

Women's Aid - for information and support, email or use the instant messaging service.

Contact a local domestic abuse service by using the Domestic Abuse Directory.

If you are in immediate danger, call 999.