What should you do if you see this hand signal for help? Vera House offers advice

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — We know cases of domestic abuse and violence increased in the pandemic, especially when people were working from home and stuck in unsafe situations.

It led to the Canadian Women’s Foundation creating a hand signal as a way for victims to silently signal for help, and it’s working.

Recently, it helped save an abducted teen in Kentucky.

Closer to home, those at Vera House are familiar with the gesture.

It’s intended to be something that people can use when they’re on video calls without tipping off the person in the house, without doing them harm.” said Virgie Townsend, director of marketing and communications for Vera House.

Virgie Townsend – Director of Marketing and Communications, Vera House

Townsend says having something like this has been really helpful, especially as calls to Vera House have become more dangerous and complex.

“Throughout the nation, there has been a rise in strangulations,” said Townsend. “Strangulation is actually a huge red flag and risk factor for potential lethality in domestic violence and that’s very concerning.”

While it may not be easy to get to a safe space, the hand signal for help may be one lifeboat in reach.

So, what should you do if you see it?

“You can perhaps call them and ask, do you want me to call the police for you? Ask yes or no questions.”

Virgie Townsend

Townsend advises people to be delicate, be aware the person causing the individual harm may be monitoring their devices, and understand someone may not want extreme measures.

Sometimes, people are just looking for emotional support. Above all, listen.

“Make sure they know that you’re always available if they need to talk,” said Townsend.

If you or someone you love needs help, you can call the Vera House 24 Hour Support Line 315-468-3260.

Vera House is also in the process of rebuilding its volunteer program. They need volunteers to help answer support line calls, webchats, and they especially need call-out volunteers.

Call-out volunteers go to hospitals when Vera House gets a call that a sexual violence victim came in and needs support.

If you’re interested in volunteering, call 315-425-0818.

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