Recognizing a hand signal to report domestic violence can save a woman's life.
The Woman Post | Carolina Rodríguez Monclou
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The Women's Financing Network highlights the Signal for Help campaign, geared towards survivors of domestic violence, explicitly directed towards the new reality of COVID-19.
Elizabeth Barajas-Román, executive director of the Women’s Funding Network, told Now This News, "the symbol is simply raising your hand, palm toward the camera and then sticking your thumb in and then closing your fingers over the thumb."
Survivors of domestic abuse can use this hand gesture if they are in danger during lockdown. Right now, most of the traditional ways in which women would access help are isolated from those at risk of this assault.
Barajas says that a gesture of silence is essential in the confinement. There is a high probability that a woman who is a victim of domestic abuse will not be able to leave the home and is seeking help.
People use the Zoom virtual platform much more than they have in the past, and it allows them to ask for help with discretion. Therefore, it is essential as a receiver to recognize the signal and act through digital communication.
The Canadian Women's Foundation initially launched the campaign. This hand signal will not be the definitive answer. However, women's protection associations can fill the gap around what people might need and raise awareness on this issue.
While knowing how to sign is vital, Barajas cautions that being able to recognize it is equally essential: “What we definitely don't want to happen is for people to see this symbol and then just call 911. We know from our domestic violence partners that sometimes calling 911 or calling the police for a situation makes things worse, even more deadly."
The CEO encourages people to be very thoughtful. For example, asking yes or no questions such as: "Do you want me to call 911?", "Would you like me to be part of your safety plan?", "Would you like me to find shelters for you?" "Would you like me to review it personally?" or "Would you like me to review it in the next few days?"
When conditions of confinement force people to stay in their homes full time, the number of incidents of domestic violence is likely to increase. In a public service announcement, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres expressed concern for the safety of women in their own homes.
Guterres said that “in some countries, the number of women calling for support services has doubled. Meanwhile, health care providers and police are overwhelmed and understaffed. Local support groups are paralyzed or without funds”.
He then added, “Some domestic violence shelters are closed, others are full. I urge all governments to make the prevention and reparation of violence against women a key part of their national response plans to COVID-19”.
This is a critically important piece. The executive director of Women’s Funding Network concludes: "One of the most basic things we need for women is that they can be safe in their own homes and be able to ask for help when they need it."