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Beyond a Gesture: “Signal for Help”

Violence at home signal for help

“Can I get your banana bread recipe?” a woman asks in a viral TikTok video, smiling at her friend over a video call. As her friend replies, the woman casually tucks her hair behind her ear, then faces her palm toward the camera and encloses her thumb in the palm with her other fingers. And just like that, without a word, the woman has signaled that she is not safe within her home.

The Canadian Women’s Foundation has created a “Signal for Help” so that people can communicate over video call that they are in dangerous situations. All they need to do is simply place their palm to the camera, tuck their thumb into their palm, and seal their other fingers over the thumb into a fist.

Violence at home hand signal

While official numbers haven’t been released, we know that people experiencing domestic violence may be unable to call domestic violence hotlines because they don’t have access to a phone. Even when survivors do have access to a phone, abusers may be monitoring their texts, calls, and search history. This new signal allows people to ask for help while keeping their digital footprint clean.

The Duke Cyber Policy and Gender Violence Initiative endorses the spread of the Canadian Women’s “Signal for Help” to help those experiencing domestic violence. Share this signal widely on social media: it can only work effectively if both survivors and allies know about the signal.