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'Signal For Help' can help domestic violence victims stuck at home reach out silently, virtually

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Posted at 11:38 AM, Oct 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-21 18:18:15-04

It's a Zoom conversation that seems to be normal. Two women talk about a recipe for banana bread, but one woman is seen signaling something with one hand during that call.

The 'Signal For Help' was developed in Canada to help battle domestic violence, especially when so many have been isolated at home.

The Canadian Women's Foundation launched the campaign in April of 2020 at the beginning of this pandemic and since then, the video has gone viral.

"The Signal For Help is a signal that you can make with one hand. It indicates that you need somebody to check in with you and make sure that you're all right. And ask if you need help," explained Andrea Gunraj, the Vice President of Public Engagement for the Canadian Women's Foundation.

Gunraj said the 'Signal For Help' is a way for those, who are at risk of violence at home, to video call for help, without leaving a digital trace, especially over the last year and a half.

"We saw a spike in the risk of gender-based violence. Things like sexual violence. Things like intimate partner violence. So we really felt it was important to respond to this and give people a tool that might help them," Gunraj said.

And making it useful silently and virtually was important with so many abused victims trapped at home.

"We also knew that more people are using video calls. People are using FaceTime. People are zooming more often. So that seemed to be a tool to access and do something with so that people could have an opportunity to say, 'Hey, I need help. And I can't even say it right now, but I'm going to make this signal,'" she explained.

Gunraj also recommends if you see a victim use this 'Signal For Help' to contact the person when he or she is not in danger.

"It's really important to take the opportunity to check in with somebody safely. So perhaps when they do the signal, that's not a safe time to say what's going on? What might be more helpful is to reach out to them with a text or with an email that says, 'Hi. How are you? Check-in with me when you're ready,'" she warned.

And if you're concerned someone might be in an abusive relationship, reach out to them before it's too late.

"We need to proactively say to people, 'I'll be here for you. I will not stigmatize you. I will not judge. You reach out to me and I will know of the places that you can go for help in our community,'" she said.

The 'Signal For Help' is now being used in 44 countries and the video has gone viral with millions of views and shares.

And if you or someone you know is in a domestic violence situation and needs help right away, call the Domestic Violence Abuse Hotline at 1-800-500-1119.