For the fourth year, salon owner Cynthia Tawiah welcomed 12 victims of domestic violence to Shades of U for an annual day of pampering, complete with free hair cuts, hand massages, facials, lunch and a candle-lighting ritual at which the women were asked to forgive their abusers.
Tawiah, who worked as a nurse for 13 years, sees the project as part of her life’s mission.
“My purpose is in healing. Battered women are one of the worst off (women),” she said. “Their self-esteem is gone.”
The women, with whom Tawiah connected through Family and Children’s Services of Central Maryland, have often suffered significant abuse.
One victim was set on fire by her husband while another contracted a sexually transmitted disease, Tawiah said.
“We are talking about something that is really serious and it is kind of swept under the rug,” she said.
The day of pampering “just became an annual gift of giving. (The women) were really in serious need of pampering,” she said. At the end of the day, “there was not a dry eye in the place.”
Flora Holley, a Baltimore resident who said she was verbally, financially and sexually abused by her husband, came to the event for the second year in a row.
In addition to getting the haircut and manicure she needed, Holley said she also had a chance to release her anger and hurt.
For someone to donate their services for such an event is unique, she said.
“It is a good esteem and beauty day, and you get to meet other women who are facing the same kind of situations,” she said. “I got out of it that people really do care and you can rebuild your life.”
Holley said what impressed her most was that the women were willing to try to get ahead.
“They are not stuck, and they are willing to do what it takes to make it,” said Holley, who knew a woman who had to leave town after being abused and one who lived in her car. “Sometimes people are silent when abuse happens and they need not be silent.”
Besides running Shades of U, Tawiah also hopes to someday open a “healing and wellness” center in Pikesville, as well as a safe house for abused women.
“This is what my life purpose is,” she said, noting that it is important for women to be able to trust people so they can help themselves. “You cannot receive with a clenched fist.”