Canadian artists draw attention to Signal for Help campaign and domestic violence

Alanna Cavanagh's "Signal for Help" is seen in an undated handout image. A group of 16 Canadian artists have reinterpreted the "Signal for Help" as part of an art campaign aimed at raising awareness for the single-hand gesture. The "Signal for Help" was introduced as a way for people experiencing domestic violence to discreetly communicate over video call that they would like someone to check on them. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Alanna Cavanagh

TORONTO — A group of 16 Canadian artists is getting behind a social media campaign to raise awareness of hand gestures that may be used by people experiencing abuse in the home. 

For the "Signal for Help" campaign, timed for National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, each artist created their own interpretation of hand gestures a domestic abuse victim may use when seeking help. 

The campaign was introduced earlier this year as a way for people to discreetly communicate over video call that they would like someone to check on them.

The Instagram artwork intends to draw more attention to the concept, in hopes that users will tag five of their friends on social media, exposing the symbolic hand gesture to more people.

The United Nations has called violence against women and girls during the COVID-19 crisis a "shadow pandemic," as social isolation and concerns over health, safety and financial security increase tension.

A Statistics Canada analysis recently found that while reports of assaults by family members dropped between March and June, calls to police related to domestic disturbances increased by nearly 12 per cent.

It says such disputes could involve "anything from a verbal quarrel to reports of violence."

Several measures, dubbed "silent solutions" by one researcher, have been introduced in different regions around the world to address the rise in domestic violence.

A study by Lori Weeks, a gerontologist at Dalhousie University’s School of Nursing, outlined some of the creative ways to communicate. 

In France, "App-Elles" is a phone app that allows women and girls to alert three trusted contacts when they're being attacked, sending their GPS coordinates to them.

Other methods have included using a specific code word at the pharmacy or purchasing a certain item in a grocery store.

The artists who volunteered their time to the "Signal for Help" campaign include:

● Saffron Francis (@saffron_francis)
● Carissa Potter Carlson (@peopleiveloved)
● Fathima Mohiuddin (@fatspatrol)
● Ruth Saparito (@inbetweenrinks)
● Alanna Cavanagh (@alanna_cavanagh)
● Sarah Rotenberg (@sarahrotenberg)
● Jacqueline Veltri (@jvel22, @elainefleckgallery)
● Carmen Jane Lew (@carmenjanelew)
● Ebrin Bagher (@ebrin.bagher)
● Madison van Rijn (@mvralldayeveryday)
● Angela Schneider (@angela.artattack)
● Lindsay Chambers (@lindsaychamberspainting)
● Dani Cooperman (@danicooperman)
● Yaw Tony (@yawtony)
● Steph Cheng (@iamstephcheng)
● Joanna Czub (@asiaczub, @elainefleckgallery)
● Jacki Lang - project curator (

This report by The Canadian Press was first published November 3, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Return to Cochrane Eagle