Women’s Funding Network Launches “Signal for Help” as Lifeline for Survivors

Women’s Funding Network Launches “Signal for Help” as Lifeline for Survivors

The Women’s Funding Network has recently addressed the widely-reported, worldwide increase in domestic violence in light of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders by announcing a new “Signal for Help” program that acts as a lifeline for those quarantined with their abusers. 

Signal for Help is a simple single-hand gesture that can be visually and silently displayed during video calls, and will 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,” according to a press release.

There is evidence that disaster situations lead to a surge in violence against women and girls, as well as trans and non-binary people—all high-risk groups for violence like intimate partner violence, emotional abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse. 

The COVID-19 crisis has already proven this to be true. 

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According to a warning from the United Nations on Tuesday, “Six months of lockdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19 could lead to 31 million additional cases of domestic violence globally.” 

“It is a growing crisis within the crisis. We need to pay maximum attention to this now,” Dr. Ramiz Alakbarov, deputy director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency, told CBS News.

The Signal for Help program initially 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 a more global reach throughout the network’s members. 

“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.”

The Women’s Funding Network—the largest philanthropic network in the world devoted to women and girls—is calling on groups and organizations, like the media and businesses, to spread awareness of Signal for Help, as well as the threat for increased instances of violence and abuse during the COVID pandemic. 

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

Women’s Funding Network Launches “Signal for Help” as Lifeline for Survivors

To learn more about what you can do if you see someone use the signal or to download and share the signal, head here.   

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Corinne Ahrens is an undergraduate student at American University studying Political Science with a specialization in Gender, Race, and Politics as well as Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Corinne has been writing for Ms. since October 2019 and is a Ms. Editorial and Social Media intern.