Signal for Help

The Signal for Help (or the Violence at Home Signal for Help) is a single-handed gesture that can be used by an individual to alert others that they feel threatened and need help over a video call, or in-person.[1] It was originally created as a tool to combat the rise in domestic violence cases around the world[2] as a result of the self-isolation measures necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instructions for the Signal for Help

The signal is performed by holding your hand up with your thumb tucked into your palm, then folding your fingers down, symbolically trapping your thumb in your fingers.[3] It was intentionally designed as a single continuous hand movement, rather than a sign held in one position, that could be made easily visible.

Signal for Help.png

The Signal for Help was first introduced in Canada by the Canadian Women's Foundation on April 14, 2020,[4] and on April 28, 2020 in the United States by the Women's Funding Network (WFN). It received widespread praise from local,[5] national,[6] and international[7] news organizations for helping provide a modern solution to the issue of a rise in domestic violence cases.

The signal has been recognized by over 40 organizations across Canada and the United States as a useful tool to help combat domestic violence.[8]

Addressing concerns that abusers may become aware of such a widespread online initiative, the Canadian Women's Foundation and other organizations clarified that this signal is not "something that's going to save the day," but rather a tool someone could use to get help.[9]

Instructions for what to do if an individual sees the signal, and how to check-in safely, were also created.[10][11]


  1. ^ Brooke, Bobb (April 28, 2020). ""Signal for Help" Is a New Tool for Abuse Victims During the Coronavirus Lockdown and Beyond". Vogue. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  2. ^ Graham-Harrison, Emma; Smith, Helena; Ford, Liz (March 28, 2020). "Lockdowns around the world bring rise in domestic violence". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  3. ^ Nadia, Ebrahim (April 22, 2020). "This Secret Signal Could Help Women In Lockdown With Their Abusers". Refinery29. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  4. ^ "Signal for Help Campaign Launches to Help People Experiencing Gender-Based Violence During Home Isolation". McGill. April 14, 2020. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  5. ^ "Self-Isolation Is Fuelling a Rise in Gender-Based Violence". Elle Canada. April 14, 2020. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  6. ^ Alexandra, Jardine (May 4, 2020). "This simple hand signal sends an alert about domestic abuse during the coronavirus crisis". AdAge. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  7. ^ Midori, Aoki (April 20, 2020). "『家にとどまって』 ~その家が安全ではなかったら?~". NHK. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  8. ^ Gillis, Wendy; Hasham, Alyshah (April 22, 2020). "Are you a victim of violence at home? Here's how to get help amid COVID-19". Toronto Star. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  9. ^ Jonathan, Forani (April 16, 2020). "Code words, hand signals and social media: How attempts to help abuse victims might backfire". CTV News Toronto. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  10. ^ "Signal for Help". The Canadian Women's Foundation. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  11. ^ "Signal for Help". Women's Funding Network. Retrieved 7 May 2020.