A hand symbol created in Canada to help people suffering with domestic violence has now gained international attention and recognition as a general symbol for help.  

November was domestic violence awareness month and one thing that is getting more spotlight is the “signal for help” created by the Canadian Women’s Foundation when they launched a campaign at the end of September 2020. 

The hand symbol idea was thought of because the Canadian Women’s Foundation noticed that more and more women were finding themselves trapped with their abusers while in COVID-19 lockdown.  

In an interview, Kendall Trembath, Executive Director of the Women's Shelter Saakaate House in Kenora explained her thoughts of the symbol.  

“Yeah, so once the pandemic hit and it was sort of going around the world, places like Canada, were watching and seeing what was happening, and I think some of the conversations that were happening between many women groups were about the increase in violence happening to women because they were stuck in their homes,” said Trembath 

She continued “And I think what happened is that the Canadian Women's Foundation picked up on there being a need for [a signal]. How do women make connections to the outside world when they’re locked in with their abuser.” 

Not only has the hand signal gained traction within Canada over the last year, recently, a North Carolina teen used the symbol in an abduction situation. Authorities were called after a motorist noticed a distressed young woman in a vehicle using the hand signal to get the attention of other vehicles. 

When asked if she thinks more media coverage about the hand signal is a good or bad thing, Trembath said “You know, when you start a campaign like this, you really think to yourself, am I giving too much away? I think if someone is looking for this kind of information, they will find it, and if you are not looking for it, it's very easy to just keep swiping by.  

The “signal for help” hand signal is not the only gesture or symbol around for alerting people of danger, things such as the “angel shot” have been circulating for a long time.  

“One of our partners during domestic violence Awareness Month is Lake of the Woods Brewing Company and I know in their bathroom they have the instructions for the Angel shot. I think that what that does is takes the pressure off of the woman too,” said Trembath.  

Angel shots are fictitious alcohol shots that signal to bar staff that a patron might not be safe. At the Lake of the Woods Brewing Company, there are menus in both the female and male washrooms that explain what you should order based on the severity of action you would like bar staff to take.  

At Lake of the Woods Brewing Company, if you order an “Angel shot” neat, staff will escort you to your car. If you order an “Angel shot” on the rocks, staff will order you a cab. And if you order an “Angel shot” with a lime, staff will seek immediate police assistance.  

As Domestic Violence Awareness month wraps up, there will still be many days of learning. After November 25, 2021, there will be 16 days of activism ending on December 10, 2021. And on December 6, 2021, there will be a vigil to honor the victims of Ecole Polytechnique.  

You can read all about Domestic Violence Awareness Month by clicking HERE.  

Watch the full video interview with Kendall Trembath and Taras Manzi