The Zoom Signal Protecting Domestic Violence Survivors

A simple gesture allows survivors to seek help without leaving a digital trail

Aviva Stahl
OneZero
Published in
6 min readOct 7, 2020

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Photo: Bill Hinton/Moment Mobile/Getty Images

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…

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Aviva Stahl
OneZero

a Brooklyn-based investigative journalist who writes about institutional failures to protect the most vulnerable