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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.

Artwork by Alanna Cavanagh for the Signal for Help campaign is seen in an undated handout image.

The Canadian Press

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.

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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 co-ordinates to them.

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

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