Newswise — PHILADELPHIA (May 20, 2019) – Victims of intimate partner violence in immigrant populations are particularly vulnerable because of language barriers, legal status and sometimes cultural customs such as privacy. A recent study conducted by Saint Joseph’s University researcher and professor of sociology and criminal justice, Chunrye Kim, Ph.D., revealed that  hairstylists in immigrant communities in Queens, New York are aware of domestic violence and other forms of abuse among their clients. The pilot study results were published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

“Stylists in the Korean immigrant population in New York are very aware of intimate partner violence among their clientele, more than 50 percent,” Kim said. “And most stylists would welcome education on how to direct victims to trustworthy resources.”

Kim read about domestic violence training in the beauty industry but there was scant research on the programs, prompting her to investigate further. Her pilot study surveyed 47 hairstylists in the Bayside and Flushing communities of Queens, New York, both of which have large Korean immigrant communities and numerous salons. More than half of the surveyed stylists (53 percent) reported that their clients disclosed physical and sexual abuse by their partners in the past year, while more than 85 percent reported that their clients revealed emotional abuse and 72 percent disclosed economic abuse.

Although trying to be helpful, some stylists gave clients harmful advice during these difficult these conversations. Unfortunately, not many stylists knew of available resources, but when asked, almost all (96 percent) expressed a willingness to display posters and brochures about domestic violence in public areas like waiting rooms.

Tragically, many victims often feel a deep sense of shame and blame themselves for the violence perpetrated against them, often refusing to call the police or report abuse. The survey confirmed this previous finding. But Kim is hopeful that in the safe, intimate environment of the salon, victims may be more willing to open up. The unique relationship between a stylist and client could provide an open door, amplified by the comfort of speaking in the client’s native language.

“I started looking into this idea after reviewing much of the data surrounding mandatory arrest, which was designed to eliminate police officer discretion while responding to domestic abuse calls,” Kim said. “We know it’s just not working how the law was intended to help. We need alternative ways to reach this vulnerable and private community.”

Instead of ending the cycle of intimate partner violence, mandatory arrest perpetuated abuse when abusers returned to the home after arrest and resulted in socio-economic fallout.

“This is why we do the research,” Kim said. “To find out what works, design intervention policies and hopefully, stop the cycle of abuse.”

Kim’s work is just one example of research and scholarship at Saint Joseph’s University, a vibrant learning community providing hands-on opportunities for students to engage with faculty on solving society’s most complex problems, like domestic abuse.

Kim’s next step will be to secure funding to conduct a study using a case-control design in Philadelphia measuring confidence levels of trained stylists in assisting potential victims and the effectiveness of education.

The author reports no conflicts of interest. This study was funded by a start-up grant from Saint Joseph’s University.


About Saint Joseph’s University

Founded in 1851 in the Jesuit tradition of academic excellence, Saint Joseph’s University is a top-ranked Catholic University that provides a rigorous, student-centered education. With a total enrollment of 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students, SJU offers a wide array of academic programs designed so that each graduate enters the world with a competitive resume and global perspective. This is achieved through intense academic study led by thought-leading faculty scholars, a comprehensive campus experience and robust study abroad, service-learning, internship and co-op programs. Upon graduation, nearly 100 percent of students are employed, pursuing advanced degrees or volunteering in prestigious service programs. A member of the Atlantic 10 Conference, SJU offers 20 Division I intercollegiate men’s and women’s sports. SJU alumni — over 68,000 strong — provide a powerful network that spans the globe.