Hand signal provides those experiencing violence in home isolation a way to discreetly communicate when they need help

The Iowa Women’s Foundation is proud to support the Women’s Funding Network in launching a new online initiative, “Signal for Help,” to assist those experiencing gender-based violence during pandemic stay-at-home orders.

Signal for Help is a simple single-hand gesture that can be visually and silently displayed during video calls to alert family, friends, or colleagues that an individual needs help and that they would like someone to check in safely with them. The program will assist survivors of intimate partner violence who may be connecting with friends, family, and colleagues via video chats and meetings.

Signal for Help launched in Canada earlier this month by Women’s Funding Network’s member the Canadian Women’s Foundation. This week’s U.S. launch is expected to have global reach through the network’s international members outside of the U.S. and Canada. There is substantial evidence that disaster situations often lead to a surge in violence that women, girls, and trans and non-binary people are at the highest risk of experiencing. This includes intimate partner violence, emotional abuse, and sexual violence. The COVID-19 pandemic is no different—the U.S. is already seeing an increase in violence similar to what has been reported around the world.

“The directive to ‘stay safe, stay home’ is counterintuitive for the millions of people who experience domestic violence in the U.S.,” said Women’s Funding Network President and CEO Elizabeth Barajas-Roman. “Signal for Help is a lifeline for women, girls, and trans and non-binary people so they can discreetly ask for the assistance they need to escape violence in their homes.”

As a Women’s Funding Network member, the Iowa Women’s Foundation is calling on organizations, media, and businesses to help spread awareness of Signal for Help using #Signalforhelp on social media. The goal is to share the sign widely to encourage the use of the gesture, and to let women, girls, and trans and non-binary people know that they do not have to suffer in silence.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to this issue,” said Barajas-Roman, acknowledging the campaign is a compliment to code words, social media signals, and other personal safety plans. “Signal for Help is important because it’s a non-verbal, and is powerful regardless of language and culture.”

To learn more about what you can do if you see someone use the signal or to download and share the signal, visit: www.womensfundingnetwork.org.  On the special Signal for Help page, the Women’s Funding Network provides tips on how to check-in safely, links to resources nationwide and a downloadable toolkit of social media posts so individuals can help spread the word.