The Zoom Signal Protecting Domestic Violence Survivors
A simple gesture allows survivors to seek help without leaving a digital trail
Just weeks into the Covid-19 lockdown, Elizabeth Barajas-Román was alarmed to learn that incidents of intimate partner violence were increasing in countries around the globe. Approaches that support organizations had previously relied on to reach people in abusive relationships, like running a hotline or providing safety planning in the workplace, were proving difficult to implement while people were stuck at home, often in close quarters with the person perpetrating violence.
Barajas-Román, who is the president and CEO of the Women’s Funding Network, a global philanthropic network dedicated to women and girls, wondered: How could survivors reach out and get the help they need in a safe way? The solution she landed on, with the help of a WFN partner group, was Signal for Help, a simple hand gesture that people experiencing abuse could silently use during video calls to tell friends or loved ones that they’re in trouble.
“It could be a real tool to help people that are sheltering in place.”
To make the signal, a person should place an open palm with a tucked thumb in front of a digital camera, then fold all their fingers over the thumb, forming a fist.
“If people can recognize it, if we’re able to get enough global adoption in understanding what the signal is, it could be a real tool to help people that are sheltering in place,” Barajas-Román tells OneZero. Signal for Help was launched in Canada and the United States in April, with the hope that it would eventually be used around the world. WFN created a dedicated website with multilingual explainers and promoted the initiative through their grantee partners, who work with people experiencing abuse in countries across the globe.
The initiative is meant to address the complicated and fraught ways technology can impact the lives of people experiencing abuse. Digital technologies like Zoom or Google Hangouts can stem…