Use This Hand Signal to Alert Loved Ones to Domestic and Family Violence

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For those in situations of domestic and family violence, COVID-19 lockdown restrictions pose an immediate threat to their safety. The means to physically leave is seemingly taken away from you and you’re forced to spend an exorbitant amount of time in the home with the person perpetrating the violence.

In light of the stay-at-home orders given to residents around the world, a new hand signal to alert others to domestic violence has gone viral on social media. Created by the Women’s Funding Network in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic, “Signal for Help” is an online initiative that assists those experiencing violence at home.

According to the Women’s Funding Network, “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 gesture is demonstrated in the video below.

While this initiative started in Canada and has since moved to the United States thanks to the Women’s Funding Network, it’s a tool Australian residents can also use. If you’re experiencing domestic or family violence and need to alert a loved one to the situation, consider using the “Signal for Help” hand gesture.

On the flip side, if a loved one performs this gesture while on a Zoom or FaceTime call, you now know what it means and can act accordingly. If you’re unsure what to do next, give 1800RESPECT a call — Australia’s national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service — and they’ll be able to give you sound advice.

Alternatively, you can head online and chat to the 1800RESPECT team online via their live chat. There is also a detailed webpage on steps to take if you believe someone you know is experiencing domestic and family violence.

If you’re currently in lockdown in Victoria and in a situation where domestic and family abuse is occurring, you are allowed to leave home. According to Safe Steps —Victoria’s family violence response centre — even residents in Melbourne who are living with stage four lockdown measures can leave their home to escape family violence.


For help or support, you can call Safe Steps on 1800 015 188. The helpline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week so someone will be able to help you at any time of the day or night. The organisation also offers telephone interpreters should you or someone you love who is experiencing family violence need that service.

If you’re unable to call or simply prefer not to, you can also contact the Safe Steps team through their live webchat from Monday to Friday between 9am and 9pm via the Safe Steps website.

Otherwise, 1800RESPECT is operating as usual during the COVID-19 pandemic and is open 24 hours to support people impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse. If you are in immediate danger, please call 000.

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