The Signal for Help (or the Violence at Home Signal for Help) is a single-handed gesture that can be used over a video call or in person by an individual to alert others that they feel threatened and need help. Originally, the signal was created as a tool to combat the rise in domestic violence cases around the world linked to self-isolation measures that were related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The signal is performed by holding one hand up with the thumb tucked into the palm, then folding the four other fingers down, symbolically trapping the thumb by the rest of the fingers. It was designed intentionally as a single continuous hand movement, rather than a sign held in one position, so it could be made easily visible.
The Signal for Help was created by the Canadian Women's Foundation and introduced on April 14, 2020. It soon spread via the TikTok social video platform and was adopted by the international Women's Funding Network (WFN). It received widespread praise from Canadian and international news organizations for helping provide a modern solution to the issue of a rise in domestic violence cases.
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.
The campaign intends the signal to mean "reach out to me safely", and advises that if someone sees a person using the signal on a video call, they should contact the signaler by another means (such as a text message or email) to ask them what they need. The campaign recommends that contacting emergency services should only be done if signaler explicitly requests this. Asking yes-no questions will reduce risk and make it easier for them to respond.
- Brooke, Bobb (April 28, 2020). "'Signal for Help' Is a New Tool for Abuse Victims During the Coronavirus Lockdown and Beyond". Vogue. Retrieved May 6, 2020.
- Graham-Harrison, Emma; Smith, Helena; Ford, Liz (March 28, 2020). "Lockdowns around the World Bring Rise in Domestic Violence". The Guardian. London. Retrieved May 6, 2020.
- Nadia, Ebrahim (April 22, 2020). "This Secret Signal Could Help Women in Lockdown with Their Abusers". Refinery29. Retrieved May 6, 2020.
- "Signal for Help Campaign Launches to Help People Experiencing Gender-Based Violence During Home Isolation". McGill University. April 14, 2020. Retrieved May 7, 2020.
- "Self-Isolation Is Fuelling a Rise in Gender-Based Violence". Elle Canada. April 14, 2020. Retrieved May 7, 2020.
- Alexandra, Jardine (May 4, 2020). "This simple hand signal sends an alert about domestic abuse during the coronavirus crisis". AdAge. Retrieved May 7, 2020.
- 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 May 7, 2020.
- Jonathan, Forani (April 16, 2020). "Code words, hand signals and social media: How attempts to help abuse victims might backfire". CTV News Toronto. Retrieved May 7, 2020.
- "Signal for Help". The Canadian Women's Foundation. Retrieved May 7, 2020.
- "Signal for Help". Women's Funding Network. Retrieved May 7, 2020.
- "How to Spot a Signal for Help, and How to Respond". DomesticShelters.org. Retrieved August 11, 2022.