Domestic abuse advocates are teaching Central Florida hair stylists how to spot signs of domestic violence. The most recent local training was held in Kissimmee on Monday morning, just months after three people were killed a salon in Casselberry last October.
The doors of the Las Dominicanas M&M Salon in the Casselton Corners shopping plaza, near State Road 436 and Aloma Avenue, remain closed. Kathy Batista said she remembers being inside the now empty unit like it was yesterday.
Batista survived the shooting, however, she lost her mother that day and is now asking stylists to help ensure no one else feels her pain.
"I recall her last words," said Kathy Batista, who was in the salon when the fatal shooting took place. "'Please, not my daughter.'"
Batista said she made an appointment that morning for both herself and her mom. Thirty minutes after they arrived, she said Bradford Baumet, 36, showed up to the salon. Police say he shot and wounded his ex-girlfriend, Marcia Santiago, 44, and killed three other women, including Gladys Cabrera, 52, Batista's mom. Noella Gonzalez-Brito, 28, and Mari Marte, 45, were also killed.
Baumet was expected in court that morning regarding restraining orders filed by his ex-girlfriend who worked at the salon and a manager at the business.
After shooting the women, police say Baumet fled the salon and went to a home on Paradise Lane in Winter Park. A witness at the home later told a detective that a man he didn't recognize walked into the house with a gun. The man "was saying he had done something but the male was so frantic he could not describe what happened," the report stated. A few moments later, the man shot himself in the head.
"It's not like we were in the middle of a high crime area and there was a shootout happening," said Batista. "No, we were at a beauty salon."
That's why Batista partnered with Help Now of Osceola, Inc. to educate stylists: men and women who are often the first to spot abuse. The group organized a seminar for stylists at the Kissimmee Police Department.
"My mom saved my life," said Batista. "I owe her this much. I will do whatever it takes to educate myself and others about domestic violence, because I don't want anyone to go through this."
Evelyn Herrera-Jackson, Help Now of Osceola, Inc. helped organize the event.
"You befriend (stylists)," said Herrera-Jackson. "Let's give them the resources so they can point the survivor in the right direction so she can get help."
Both women said this problem can affect anyone.
"We've never seen domestic violence in my family," said Batista. "So for that to happen to your mom, and she wasn't even directly involved. It just makes no sense."
Organizers have two messages for stylists: keep your clients and staff safe, and ears and eyes open.
Herrera-Jackson asked stylists to watch out for bruises, hair that has been ripped out, change in mobility (i.e. a client isn't walking as she or he normally walks,) and sudden fear of changing hairstyles to please a spouse or partner.
"If they're showing they're uncomfortable, edgy, nervous, anxious," said Herrera-Jackson, referring to possible signs of abuse. "If they have an abusive individual waiting for them in the waiting area."
Herrera-Jackson said another possible sign is a client who begins to consistently cancel or change appointments.
Batista and her brother started the "I Am Gladys Cabrera Foundation" to spread awareness about abuse.
"It's not going to stop," said Batista. "I'm going to do this. This is a lifetime goal. My mission is to save as many lives as I can."
Organizers plan to take their message to salons throughout the area this summer.
Call the 24-hour domestic violence hotline for more information about help or to find out how to help someone else: 407-847-8562.