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Bill aims to train cosmetologists to spot, help abuse survivors

Supporters say bill could save lives throughout state, if passed

SAN ANTONIO – Another chance. Another lifeline. Another way out. That's what Texas House Bill 1104 is trying to give abuse survivors by empowering the people they open up to.  

The bill proposes mandatory domestic violence and sexual assault training for cosmetologists and supporters say this could save lives. 

To most people the salon is a place to kick back and relax, but to an abuse survivor it can be a safe haven.

"It's me myself and nobody else. You feel safe and feeling beauty, your self-esteem is getting better because you feel good. That's the way you can talk," said survivor Sandy Salazar. 

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Six years ago, Aalazar finally got out of a 14-year abusive relationship. 

"Physical, emotional, mentally, sexually, all the kinds. It was terrible," she said. 

With children to worry about, she didn't know where to go or how to leave. 

"You're looking for help, but where to start?" Salazar said. 

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Surprisingly, some people start at the beauty salon. The salon is a social place, where very personal conversations are common.

"I had a lady come in with her ponytail cut off because her boyfriend was upset with her and cut her hair off. Comes to me to fix her hair and I was like what happened? So she tells me this story. It's a really sad story, but what do you do?" said Salon owner and cosmetology trainer Linda Debartolo, remembering the inner struggle she felt that time. 

"We just support them and listen to them and sometimes we feel like we're counselors to them because they confide in us, and that's not having the answers," she said.

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Debartolo has seen bruises and heard horrific stories all 34 years she's worked in the business. She believes if she was trained to spot abuse and help those who open up, she could save lives. 

"I have employees I have customers I have students that deal with stuff like this, and family members that deal with this. And it's really sad to hear because we don't know what to do about it, how to fix it," Debartolo said. "Tell them where to go, what to do."

House Bill 1104 would make every cosmetologist get that training before he or she gets a license. 

"If it passes we have another possibility for victims to survive. Give them more tools to survive," Salazar said. "It's hard to start a conversation with a victim but we need to be trained how to talk with them. As a victim, I need your help." 

The bill unanimously made it through the house committee. It now has to make it through both the house and senate floor by May 29 when the session ends.

READ MORE: Woman shares story of domestic abuse survival

Salazar got help from a local anti-abuse program called the PEACE Initiative, and she got her life back. She's now re-married and on Saturday, she graduated from college. 

"You can go to these associations. You know you can go to the police department. Many people are scared to do that. The police department, when I did it the first time, it was awesome. They were really nice with me, of course it's not easy but it's not impossible. You can do it. You can get out of there," she said to other struggling survivors out there. 

If you or someone you know is dealing with abuse, call Family Violence Prevention Services at 210-930-3669 to be set up with counseling, legal help, the Battered Women and Children's Shelter, or many other services. 

Click here for a look at HB 1104.

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