The Shorty Awards honor the best of social media and digital. View this season's finalists!
From the 8th Annual Shorty Impact Awards

The Violence at Home Signal for Help™ (Signal for Help)

Winner in Social Movement Campaign


In early 2020, as more and more countries were issuing strict isolation orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, people worldwide were sheltering at home and increasingly relying on video calls to stay connected with others. Although sheltering at home is an effective protective measure against COVID-19, women and gender-diverse people were experiencing a rise in gender-based violence — commonly referred to as the Shadow Pandemic.   

In response, the Canadian Women’s Foundation created The Violence at Home Signal for Help™ (commonly referred to as the Signal for Help) as a tool to help those experiencing gender-based violence. It’s a simple one-handed gesture—palm forward, tuck thumb, trap thumb—someone can use without leaving a digital trace to communicate they need someone to safely check in and support them.  

Within months of launching, it quickly went viral, spreading on social media, making news headlines—and saving lives. From there, the Foundation expanded the Signal for Help to include tools and training, encouraging people to sign up as “Signal for Help Responders” to support survivors of violence and learn how to have judgement-free conversations—so that together, we can transform the culture of stigma and silence around gender-based violence, to one of support and action.  

Strategy and Execution

We launched with organic social media posts with simple instructions on how to use the Signal for Help if you need help, and what to do if you see the Signal. These posts linked to a social media toolkit on our website that an army of more than 200 women’s groups instantly downloaded, customized, and shared.

Then, we followed up with a video PSA demonstrating how the Signal can be used on a video call. The video PSA exploded on social media, particularly TikTok. Amplified by influential voices, it quickly became social activism on a global scale.

As the Signal spread, key questions began to emerge: “What do I do if I see the Signal for Help? How do I support someone facing abuse?” We conducted a national survey, which confirmed the majority of people in Canada (64%) know a woman who has experienced sexual, emotional, or physical abuse. But, only 1 in 6 people feel very confident they would know how to support someone dealing with sexual or emotional abuse—and, it’s only 1 in 5 for physical abuse.

To help close this gap, we expanded our resources to include tools and training for “Signal for Help Responders.” Upon signing up, Responders instantly receive an easy-reference Action Guide and enroll in an email learning journey with links to more helpful resources like articles, quizzes, events, and more.

Key resources created to date include:

Other key campaign activities include: the production and promotion of another video PSA; two youth-led projects (a social media influencer campaign and art contest); and corporate and community training presentations—all supplemented by continuous social media advertising and earned media.

Our goals remain to increase public understanding of gender-based violence, as well as our competence and confidence to respond and support survivors. Because, gender-based violence is not inevitable. We can all play a role in ending abuse. We can all learn to recognize it, respond, and offer stigma-free support.


In Canada, 40% of people have seen information about the Signal for Help, and 9% have used the Signal or seen it used.

Globally, the Signal has been:

More than 56,000 people have signed up to be Signal for Help Responders, committed to learning more about gender-based violence and how to support survivors. Thanks to our resources, in a survey of Responders:


Video for The Violence at Home Signal for Help™ (Signal for Help)

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Canadian Women's Foundation


Entry Credits