Police in the West Midlands have launched a scheme in which hairdressers are to be trained to spot the signs of domestic abuse when dealing with their cusotmers. The scheme, called Salon Saviours, will see some of the city's beauticians work with detectives in order to help find those who abuse their partners.
The scheme is hoping the expand on the strong bond between hairdressers and their clients. A recent survey revealed hairdressing as the fifth most trusted profession in the UK, behind only doctors, teachers, judges and scientists. The survey said 69% of those asked would trust them to tell the truth, a higher percentage than the police (68%), charity chief executives (47%) and TV newsreaders (65%).
Salon Saviours will start out in Wolverhampton after it was found to have the third highest number of domestic abuse reports in the West Midlands, with nearly 8000 cases reported over the past five years. If successful, the scheme will be rolled out to the rest of the area.
Detective Chief Inspector Michaela Kerr, from the Public Protection Unit that leads on domestic abuse investigations, said: "There are hairdressers and beauty salons on every high street and each day staff are speaking to dozens of customers. Their position as one of the most trusted trades makes them well-placed to offer information and sound advice to survivors.
"Salon Saviours aims to break the silence that has historically surrounded domestic abuse. We want people to be talking about these abhorrent crimes as easily as we talk about car crime or burglary. We also want people to be holding us to account over our handling of domestic abuse cases with the same vigour as they do about other crimes."
Salon Saviours are all volunteers and will not be obliged to report cases to the police, Instead, they will have a direct hotline to detectives to share concerns about a customer or a customer's partner and provide a "listening ear and a source of information".
Mayor of Wolverhampton Ian Brookfield, who visited Wolverhampton police station to find out more about the initiative, said: "This is a great idea, and I'd like to thank all those hairdressers who have volunteered to become Salon Saviours. If just one customer feels able to confide in their hairdresser about abuse they may be suffering at home, and action can be taken, then this initiative will have been worth it.
"The key message is that victims of domestic violence or other types of abuse should not suffer in silence − please speak out and get help and support before it's too late."
The charity Refuge said as many as one in three women will experience some sort of domestic abuse during their life. Woman's Aid also released a report last year saying nearly half of all British women killed by men died at the hands of a partner or ex-partner – equating to roughly two domestic violence deaths a week.