Professionals within the hair and beauty industry recently attended a training session to help them recognise the signs of domestic abuse.
Organised by North Wales Police and supported by Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones, the event aimed to raise awareness of domestic abuse and get as many salons as possible involved in the training to identify the signs.
In welcoming everyone to the session at Rhyl Golf Club, Mr Jones said: “Tackling domestic abuse is one of my key priorities.
“It can have a profound effect on people’s lives and my ambition is to ensure that victims receive a high quality of service in North Wales.”
Sharing his own harrowing experience of being a victim, PC Mike Taggart, whose mother was murdered by her partner, when he was just a 15-year-old boy and who is now Domestic Abuse Lead for North Wales Police explained: “My mum was an ordinary hard working woman who was murdered because she wanted to leave.”
“But leaving is not that simple. It has a ripple effect – it is not easy to give up everything when you’ve done nothing wrong.”
He went on to explain that raising awareness in this way is all very new.
“We are not asking people to do our job; we want them to be the eyes and ears. While having their treatments women do disclose information to professionals, because they trust them,” he added.
Jess Russell describes herself as a survivor who is doing everything in her power to help others raise awareness.
At the age of 16 she was swept off her feet by a man who was charming, romantic and manipulative.
But after he persuaded her to leave her family and friends, his demeanour changed, he got violent towards her if she had not done something properly. He would handcuff her to the bed and threatened to harm her or one of their children.
They moved house 18 times in the time they were together; she suffered daily if not weekly beatings resulting in numerous broken bones and constant bruising.
“I had become the shell of the person I once was,” explained Jess.
“I lost my identity, my self-esteem, my head was shaved, he chose my clothes and what I watched on telly and I made up stories to cover up for him.
“He would accompany me everywhere but I could not leave him. I felt if I was there my children would not be hurt.
“He was a Jekyll and Hyde person. It was only when he started threatening the children that I had the wake-up call.
“I found strength to leave, I got a voice and told the truth, but until you are in that situation you cannot pass judgement.”
As a result her husband was arrested and after a six week trial he was found guilty of 11 offences and given a lengthy prison sentence.
She added: “For the last few years I have had peace and normality in my life. I am truly happy, loving life and supporting my children. I got justice and I have come out fighting.”
Ann Williams of the Live Fear Free – Domestic Abuse Helpline which offers a 24/7 service, went on to explain how 112 women were killed last year.
“People can tell you their darkest story, but the worst thing you can do is put it back in the box and not tell anyone. We want to give people the confidence to do something about it.”
She highlighted that 1 in 3 women suffer some form of domestic abuse and on average a person is subjected to 35 incidents before anything is disclosed to a family member or friend.
“It isn’t a nice thing to talk about, but we will not stand back and ignore it in Wales. We need to give people the tools to do something about it.”
PC Taggart added: “Women are the most targeted victims but abuse can happen to anyone. If I can make a difference to someone’s life I will try.”
Kimberley Roberts, owner of a Kinmel Bay salon, is a White Ribbon Champion who got involved to help raise awareness and is keen to get as many salons as possible involved.
“This was great insight. People do tell their story and in the past we have not been able to do anything, with the right training we can now help. Everyone can help stop the silence.”
Further seminars are planned across the force to all who work within the hair and beauty industry, salon owners, hairdressers, barbers and beauty therapists.
PC Taggart concluded: “There are so many elements of abuse to look out for. If you notice anything be brave enough to say something.”