FAIRFIELD — Shalon McMiller has seen the bruises. She has heard the stories.
Until recently, though, McMiller has felt powerless to help her salon clients who were – and are – victims of domestic abuse.
“I have come across so many women who are victims of domestic violence,” said McMiller, who has been a licensed hairstylist since 1996. A Suisun City resident, she is the manager at Luxe Locks Salon on Webster Street in Fairfield. “I’ve had clients who have been through so many things.”
Those clients learn to trust her, and will tell her their stories of abuse and other intimate matters.
McMiller said the story of one particular woman stands out because there was no physical violence, but the effects of the emotional trauma she suffered from left scars just the same. She saw it in the way the woman related with other people – always cautious and reserved, even a bit nervous.
“She didn’t even know she had been victimized because it wasn’t physical,” McMiller said.
Then another client, Rosalyn Spradley, began to talk about domestic violence. Spradley was looking to get involved in the community, and joining the fight against domestic violence was gaining traction. That was around 2007.
“The more she talked to me about domestic violence, the more interested I became,” McMiller said.
Over time, Spradley began to train McMiller, and a handful of other stylists, about how to recognize the signs of domestic violence and what she could do to help her clients by providing information.
“So now I feel like I have more power than to just listen,” said McMiller, who quickly adds that she is not a counselor, and does refer her clients to professionals.
That story, in part, is the subject of an article that appears in the September issue of O Magazine, the publication by Oprah Winfrey and Hearst Communications.
“I got an email from O Magazine. Of course, I thought someone was playing a game,” Spradley said.
Magazine officials had read an article that appeared in the Daily Republic. They were looking to do a story focused around what people are willing to tell their hair dressers – and the stories of domestic violence resonated and fit into the mission of Winfrey’s efforts to empower women.
“We didn’t know if they would use the story, but I think they liked the collaboration between us,” Spradley said of her relationship with McMiller, who said she had a lot of fun talking to the magazine people and doing the photo shoot.
Since the article came out, Spradley has been contacted by a number of private domestic violence groups in four states interested in learning about the training they have used.
“We are considering doing a training of salons if they are interested in learning about domestic violence and . . . how to refer clients,” Spradley said.
They will have their fourth annual Cut-a-Thon on Oct. 29 to raise money for domestic violence and breast cancer programs.
The first steps
Spradley, who had retired after 34 years as a safety and health officer with the U.S. Postal Service, volunteered with SafeQuest Solano for three years, and later with LIFT3.
Eventually, Spradley and her second husband, Carlton Spradley, who also had been a volunteer with SafeQuest and LIFT3, established their own agency, Advocates Against Domestic Violence in the African-American Community.
While their clients cross all cultural lines, they do have a specific outreach to the African-American community because they felt that was a gap that was not being filled during their time at SafeQuest and LIFT3.
“We did have a different vision, so after we left SafeQuest and LIFT3, we talked,” said Carlton Spradley, who is retired after 30 years as an agent with the AAA insurance company. “Actually, we agonized over whether we should start our own domestic violence agency.”
The couple, who live in Vacaville, decided to move forward and the organization received its nonprofit status in 2014. The diplomas and other training certificates that decorate their Fairfield office walls are evidence of the work they have put into preparing themselves.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a woman is assaulted every 9 seconds in the United States, and one in every 15 children are victims of abuse. About 10 million people are abused each year by their intimate partners, the research shows.
Carlton Spradley said that African-Americans have some of the highest rates of domestic violence, and said institutional racism, low socio-economic status and centuries of societal abuse are all factors in dealing with the issue.
He said he strongly believes individuals must be held accountable for their behavior, but said treating the individual includes breaking down the specific and broad cultural violence – including the defining history of slavery – that have helped define that person.
“It still exists,” Rosalyn Spradley said. “Our society is a violent culture.”
The Spradleys work with a number of community groups, but are always looking to add to the list. They also would like to have a better relationship with the county’s domestic violence agencies, but have not had much success connecting with them thus far.
They said they hope the power of Oprah will lead to more successes, though they admit it has been humbling.
“Bringing attention to domestic violence helps,” Carlton Spradley said.
Reach Todd R. Hansen at 427-6932 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Know & Go
- A reception to feature the magazine, the work by the Advocates Against Domestic Violence in the African-American Community and to promote the Oct. 29 Cut-a-Thon is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. Sunday at the AADVAAC office, 1891 Woolner Ave., Suite G, in Fairfield. The cost is $20 and includes a wine-and-cheese reception, a copy of O Magazine and a voucher for a hair cut.