By Gretchen Cook
Thursday, September 14, 2000
Beauty salons are intimate gathering places where women chat, confide and nourish more than hair and nails. Now, some are playing potentially life-saving roles in a network helping battered women take care of beauty and bruises, body and soul.
Sandra Mizell grew up in a violent and abuse family situation and then she went on to marry a man who abused her. She walked out after he held a gun to her head in front of her two-year-old son. Still, she continued with one abusive relationship after another.
"I didn't know that's what it was called, I just figured we were just dysfunctional," said Mizell. She finally met a man who recognized her problem and five years ago found her psychological help that helped her recognize the abuse.
"Even then I didn't realize places like My Sister's Place existed. It was only by chance I came across it because I was looking for a place to volunteer," says Mizell, who works full-time as the assistant to the head of the National Academies information systems office.
She estimated that 70 percent of the abused women she knows didn't know that shelters for battered women existed or that there was legal, medical and psychological help available.
"I go to get my hair done every week. Had I seen this I would have thought maybe I should go there," she said. Her friends knew something was wrong, she said, "but they didn't want to pry."
Yet, Marcus says that her outreach was "a hard sell" at some salons because some stylists also don't want to pry. "Domestic violence is never an easy issue to get people excited about and some are concerned an abuser will go after the salon owner," said Marcus. One reluctant stylist refused to participate, saying she wasn't a therapist.
But offering information is all Marcus is asking.
"Our goal is not just to get women out of abusive situations but to stop the abuse from happening in the first place," she said.
Gretchen Cook covers the White House for the international news agency, Agence France-Presse.
By Marisa Trevino