National Spa Community Rallies Behind Azana

More than 100 spas in Wisconsin and at least eight other states agreed to donate a cut of their proceeds Tuesday to an anti-domestic violence fundraiser to help the families of Azana spa shooting victims.

The beauty salon community has rallied around a Brookfield spa struck by a mass shooting in a way rarely, if ever, seen by other industries hurt by workplace violence.

More than 115 salons in Wisconsin — plus at least eight other states — stepped up to participate Tuesday in a "Cut It Out" event to raise awareness of domestic violence, the root of the Oct. 21 tragedy at Azana Salon & Spa across from Brookfield Square mall.

Days after hairstylist Zina Daniel Haughton obtained a four-year restraining order against her husband she planned to divorce, he stormed into the upscale Azana, killing her and two of her co-workers and wounding four others before killing himself.

There's something about the nature of salons — to pamper and care for people, especially women — that fueled an instinctive desire by competitors and strangers alike to help, one organizer said.

A place to be pampered, not killed

"Beauty professionals take care of people for a living — that's what we do," salon owner Jan Seybold said. "This is where you go to get taken care of, not to be killed. That's why everybody said, 'Yes, I want to help.'"

Sometimes it takes a tragedy to make connections.

Even though Seybold's salon, Carenza.Color.Cutting.Experience, is located literally around the busy corner from Azana, Seybold didn't know Azana owner Tami Gemmell before Oct. 21.

Now, she says, "we're bonded for life."

See Patch's full coverage of the Azana spa shooting

Seybold's childhood bonds — or lack thereof — with her own violent father probably helped heighten her interest in helping her salon neighbor.

On Thursday, she recalled how, at age 6, she once ran from her house in the cold to escape her father and how a nearby police squad took her to her grandfather's house. Never once did she think about telling a teacher or another adult about what was going on at home.

Breaking the silence of domestic abuse

That same silence may have been present in the Haughton house, where Zina's brother has told reporters he was unaware of his sister's domestic troubles.

Seybold wants to try to break that silence and promote dialog about domestic abuse and how to help victims escape it.

So after she sat horrified and glued to her television set watching the news of the Sunday morning shooting, and after her salon staff could talk of little else at work on Monday, she decided to take some action.

So did Mary Beth Berns of Craig Berns Salon Spa in Delafield, who called Seybold and asked, "Would you donate a portion of your sales?"

Seybold said she would, and began contacting everyone she knew through the Professional Beauty Association, a national group that has distributed anti-domestic violence hotline cards and brochures since a nonprofit CutItOut.org was created 10 years ago in Alabama.

Three spa mass shootings in past year

That nonprofit has not been active, however, despite mass shootings at Salon Meritage in Seal Beach, CA, on Oct. 12, 2010 and at Las Dominicanas M & M Salon in Casselberry, FL, just three days before the Azana murders. (Salon Meritage is re-opening Sunday, a year after its shooting. Azana plans to reopen Dec. 1.)

Through word of mouth, email and Facebook, the number of salons agreeing to participate in the Azana effort kept growing.

On Tuesday, spas sold purple ribbons for $5 or a donation. Some sold T-shirts with domestic abuse awareness messages. Carenza had a raffle with donated items, such as designer jeans from Next Door Boutique and self-defense classes from a firefighter. The Women's Center in Waukesha sent staff members to some salons to distribute informational brochures.

Some clients who already had appointments set for other dates, called Carenza to call in donations. Spas took photos, which Seybold gave Brookfield Patch permission to use with this story.

Gemmell visited many of the participating salons Tuesday to thank them in person.

Seybold said she told Gemmell: "We better make sure we are both wearing our waterproof mascara!"

"True that," she said Gemmell agreed.

Money raised yet unknown

The money raised is yet unknown. Carenza alone raised more than $2,600. Organizers had said if each salon could raise $1,000 the effort could send $100,000 to the Azana Benefit Fund set up at Associated Bank. The fund aims to help the children of the three spa workers slain — Zina; Cary Robuck of Caledonia; and Maelyn Lind of Oconomowoc.

"I wish I could have done more," Seybold said. But she vows: "We're not done yet."

She said she wants to make Cut It Out an annual event, with proceeds to help the national nonprofit as well as local domestic abuse shelters. She also may try to forge connections with the Florida spa community, given its shooting just days before Azana.

Spas in other states are applauding the Wisconsin spa community.

"While I'll physically be in California tomorrow, my heart will be in Wisconsin with all the salons participating in this heartfelt event," Stacey Soble, editor in chief of Modern Salon Media, wrote on Facebook.

"Bless you all, and we hope you rack up some amazing sales!!" Salon Today wrote on its page.

Seybold urged people to "like" the Cut It Out community Facebook page and to keep an eye out for friends, neighbors and coworkers who may be suffering abuse.

"One in three women will be abuse during her lifetime," Seybold said. "Every 15 seconds a woman will be abused and four are killed a day."

Salon professionals have a unique opportunity to make a difference, she added. "There is a closeness with their clients. A lot of women confide in their hairdresser."

After Azana's tragedy, she hopes more eyes and ears will be open.


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