For women, COVID-19 has not only brought health concerns, but the lockdown has seen a surge in domestic violence cases. The United Nations Population Fund and its partners Avenir Health, Johns Hopkins University in the US and Victoria University in Australia, noted a 20% increase in violence during an average three-month lockdown in all 193 UN member states, according to The Guardian.
Forced to live with their abusers in this lockdown, it becomes even more difficult for women to report it, or even share the matter with their near and dear ones. To sort this out, a domestic abuse hand signal has come to light, which women are using across Canada to alert their friends on video calls about the domestic abuse that they are facing. One such video was shared on YouTube by the Canadian Women's Foundation.
The domestic abuse hand signal involves holding your hand up to the camera with your thumb tucked into your palm, and then folding your fingers down and trapping your thumb in your fingers.
How To Use The Domestic Abuse Hand Signal
During a video call, it may be difficult for women to speak about domestic abuse, especially at a time when their abuser is somewhere near them and might catch the woman complaining. Therefore, this signal comes as a saviour for women, because they can now alert their friends that they feel threatened, without leaving any digital trace. How to use it?
The signal involves holding your hand up to the camera with your thumb tucked into your palm, and then folding your fingers down and trapping your thumb in your fingers.
What Should You Do If You Come Across A Woman Using This Symbol
It is important, for both the survivour and her friends and family to know what the symbol means. Even more important is to take action as soon as you come to know that someone's feeling threatened. So what should you do?
- If a friend were to use this signal while on a video chat, try emailing, texting, or calling your friend back so you aren’t on speaker.
- Ask them Yes/No question like if they want you to call a helpline number or if they need shelter or something else.
- For domestic violence helpline numbers to call in India, refer HERE.
- Let them know that you're there for them in case they need you, at any point in the day.
The domestic abuse hand signal came as a response to feedback from frontline and support workers in Canada, Refinery 29 reported. Not only on video calls, but this symbol can also be used to alert others when interacting face to face.
Since lockdown has forced people to stay at homes, this has also affected the domestic violence support services worldwide. In India, domestic violence cases saw a huge surge in number in the first week of lockdown. The National Commission For Women reported that it got around 257 complaints in the last week of March. South Africa saw almost 90,000 reports of gender-based violence during the first week of its lock-down from March 26 to 2 April. The Australian government reported a 75% increase in online searches for support on domestic violence since lockdown from 23rd March.