Fermanagh Women’s Aid, in collaboration with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), are hosting a training day for salon professionals on understanding domestic and sexual violence.

The ‘In Safe Hands: Understanding Domestic and Sexual Violence’ bespoke training will take place on Monday, July 29 from 10am to 3.30pm.

“A lot of the training is there to dispel the myths about domestic violence, because those myths about domestic violence and those myths about Women’s Aid are barriers to women coming forward,” said Michelle Alonso, Training Co-ordinator for Fermanagh Women’s Aid.

She continued: “When you can get key professionals, like salon professionals here, they have a key opportunity to dispel those myths, get the barriers down about Women’s Aid, about domestic violence. They are in a prime position to be able to signpost to Women’s Aid.”

Having completed the training day last year, Julie O’Shea of Eden Hair, Enniskillen and Leann Dolan of Ocean View Salon, Bundoran spoke to The Impartial Reporter about their experiences.

“I suppose for me it’s being able to recognise the signs of the abuse that is going on and now that clients are aware that we’ve done the training they are able to open up that little bit easier,” said Julie, when asked how the training benefited her.

She continued: “You would have had people dropping bits of information into conversation but I think for us it was how do we act on that. What steps do we have to take to get them help in the safest way and by doing the training we’ve been able to learn how to do that, how to signpost them to Women’s Aid.”

Julie added: “It’s been a great help, I’d definitely recommend it to anybody to do the training.”

Leann shared: “My clients have definitely opened up a lot more since, because we got a certificate that day to say that we had been trained in it. I have it in the salon just on my reception desk. They’ll start talking then when they come out to pay or when they come in they sit down, that’s when they start talking.”

She continued: “You could just be doing a facial and it could be a whole hour of them telling you, pouring their heart out.”

Leann explained that prior to completing the training, her clients would have disclosed incidents of domestic abuse but she wouldn’t have known how to respond due to the fear of saying something wrong.

“Now with the training we can guide them and tell them where to go or just listen to them and don’t judge them. Don’t even talk, just let them talk because if you interrupt them at all they might not ever open their mouth again to anyone, so you just let them talk and hopefully then they’ll come for help,” said Leann.

When asked why victims of domestic or sexual abuse tend to open up to salon professionals, Michelle said: “I think it’s probably one of the professions, more so than any other, that is least intimidating.”

She continued: “The PSNI and other professions may be intimidating and open Pandora’s box there, making it all real. There is an element of trust between the salon professional and the client. They are already touching the client before they start speaking to the client.”

Michelle added that Women’s Aid were finding that salon professionals were a key profession where perpetrators of domestic or sexual abuse were not hanging around.

She said: “They weren’t staying, which then gave the opportunity for the victim, the woman, to be able to have a conversation with somebody in a confidential way, to someone that they feel they can trust.”

Explaining that since she completed the training she has had disclosures of domestic abuse, Julie noted that emotional abuse has been particularly prevalent: “It’s not just physical, emotional abuse is the biggest part, from what I’m seeing from clients.”

She added: “I think before the training we didn’t know how to help. Now we can give them information and guide them in a safe way to Women’s Aid.”

Talking about the training day, Leann commented: “Parts of it were really intense but you learnt so much from it, all about Women’s Aid, not to be afraid and how good they are.”

“It changed my whole outlook on Women’s Aid.

“I just thought it was so professional, confidential and safe,” she added.

Facilitated by Fermanagh Women’s Aid in collaboration with the PSNI, Michelle explained what the upcoming training day will involve: “The training is designed to look at the ins and outs of domestic and sexual violence.

“We will be looking at the definition, the types and effects, we will be looking at the reasons women stay and in particular targeting salon professionals in how they can help us combat domestic and sexual violence. How they can be key in us getting referrals in and helping women.”

Temporary Superintendent Clive Beatty commented: “Collaboration is the key to supporting the community and protecting people and preventing harm.”

He added: “The PSNI recognise that working with professionals in the area of domestic abuse is the only way that we will start to make inroads into the eradication of this terrible affliction.”