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Palm out, tuck thumb and fold fingers down: Viral TikTok gesture raises awareness of domestic violence

This is a recurring recording of KOLO 8 News Now at 10.
Published: Nov. 19, 2021 at 11:41 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Earlier this month a missing teenager from North Carolina was rescued in Kentucky after using a hand gesture known on TikTok as the ‘Signal for Help’.

The gesture was first introduced last year by the Canadian Women’s Foundation, to help address the rise in domestic violence while lockdown measures were in place.

“Due to the COVID pandemic, isolation was increased so much for victims so, having this hand signal for help is a great way to safely and discreetly indicate that you’re in distress,” said Alyssa Ropell, development coordinator at Domestic Violence Resource Center.

Someone using the signal holds their palm facing out, with the thumb tucked and four fingers down.

The gesture can be used in a variety of circumstances, such as, a video call or when answering the door.

If you see someone use the signal, check-in safely to find out what they need and want you to do.

“It’s checking in with the person in distress to see what their level of need is,” said Ropell. “If you can’t tell right away like the situation of the young girl in Kentucky that she had a missing person’s file, you can call the police.”

According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation website, some ways you can check in safely is to call and ask questions that can be answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no’. For example, “Would you like me to call 911?”

During the fiscal year, ending on June 30, the Domestic Violence Resource Center responded to 11,667 more victim contacts compared to prior fiscal year.

“With Nevada, we’re ranked in the top 10 for domestic violence,” said Judi Howell, executive director of Domestic Violence Resource Center. “We have our shelter, we have different transitional housing, which holds up to 19 units, we have different programs and we have our hotline, 24-hour hotline.”

The resource center wants to remind the community domestic violence is not only physical.

“Financial abuse, emotional, psychological,” said Ropell. “Some red flags we have them look out for are bullying and threats, gaslighting, cuts you off from family and friends, keeps you from eating, sleeping, voting, throws things and yells things.”

Statistics indicate it takes victims about seven times to fully leave an abusive relationship.

“There are many reasons as to why people ‘stay’ in relationships so we don’t judge, we give people the space and we understand that there are some times were is even actually safer for them to not leave because the abuser says ‘I’m going to kill you if you leave,’ said Ropell. “Victim blaming is something we really like to move away from.”

In addition to its hotline, the center will be implementing a crisis text line. They have also received private foundation funding to offer their residential clients access to bilingual trauma-informed counseling assistance for children and adults.

Next week the organization will start its The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign (November 25-December 10). This year’s campaign focuses on the issue of ending femicide.

For more information, call the hotline at 775-329-4150.

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