Hand Signal for Help Guide for Kids and Adults

Children and adults who are victims of domestic abuse, kidnap, or sexual abuse often don’t feel safe to simply scream it out in public or call 911 and ask for help. Instead, a hand signal for help can be the safest and most effective way to let someone know that you’re in danger, without putting yourself at risk of further harm. This guide will show exactly how to do the hand signal.


What Is the Signal for Help?


The signal or sign for help is a simple hand signal that people can make to let others know that they’re in some kind of danger and need help. It originated during the COVID-19 pandemic, as many people were stuck inside due to lockdowns and quarantine rules and the rates of domestic abuse began to rise in many areas around the world.

It was the Women’s Funding Network and the Canadian Women’s Foundation, together, who came up with the signal. They wanted to create a way for women in danger, as well as children and anyone else who felt scared or threatened, to ask for help in a silent and subtle way, rather than having to yell it out, dial 911, or verbally say what was happening to them.

The gesture is quick and easy to perform:

  1. First, open the hand and hold it up, with all fingers pointing out.
  2. Next, tuck the thumb into the palm.
  3. Finally, wrap the other fingers over the thumb.

The hand signal can be used in lots of different locations and situations, like on a video call with a friend or family member, in a social media post, or just out and about in public. And knowing how to signal for help or what to look for could be enough to save a life; in 2021, a teenage girl used the signal to get help after she’d been kidnapped. She was rescued later on, unharmed.

Signaling for Help When I’m Unsafe in Public


The universal hand signal for help is a very useful way to get help if you need it, but it’s not the only option. There are several other methods you can use to signal for help or protect yourself in public places.

The Angel Shot

If you’re in a bar and need to signal for help, ask the bartender for an “angel shot”. This is another widely-known signal that bar staff are trained to understand. It’s a simple sign that you feel in danger, and it’s very helpful to use if someone is harassing you, or you worry that your drink might have been spiked.

There are even a couple of variations on the angel shot to try. The “angel shot neat” means that you want someone to escort you to your vehicle, while “angel shot with ice” means that you’d like the staff to call a ride for you. An “angel shot with lime”, meanwhile, is a sign that the staff should call the cops.

Asking for Angela

Another international help gesture that is used around the world and has recently been talked about on social media sites like TikTok is the “asking for Angela” signal. This idea started off in the UK but has spread to other parts of the world. It launched back in the early 21st century and basically involves asking staff at a bar, cafe, or another place for a person called “Angela”.

It’s essentially a simple code phrase to let the staff know you’re in trouble and need help. They can then take the necessary steps like calling the police or escorting you away from the building.

Having a One-Sided Call

Having a one-sided call is another method to try. This basically involves holding your phone to your ear and conversing with a pre-recorded message of someone asking things like “When are you going to be home?” You can record the message and keep it on your phone to use when you feel in danger. Any possible attackers nearby should be deterred if they think someone else is waiting for you or talking to you.

Are There Other Silent Ways to Ask For Help?

Findmykids app

Yes, there are some other silent distress signals to help you get aid if you’re in trouble. There are technological gadgets like smart alarms, along with phone apps you can set up to send your GPS location to a friend or family member when you feel endangered. One such app is Findmykids, which not only allows you to track your child’s location but also offers a wide range of features for ensuring safety and peace of mind.

With Findmykids, you can set up geofence zones to receive instant alerts when your child enters or leaves specified areas. This feature is especially helpful for monitoring their movements and ensuring their safety during school hours or while they are out with friends. The app also provides a history of your child’s location, enabling you to track their whereabouts throughout the day.

Moreover, Findmykids offers an SOS button that your child can press in case of an emergency. Once activated, it immediately sends an alert to your phone, allowing you to respond quickly and take necessary actions. Additionally, the app provides a real-time location tracking feature, which is incredibly useful for finding your child in crowded places or unfamiliar surroundings.

Stay safe and connected with Findmykids—your child’s safety is just a click away!

Many companies are also implementing methods to protect people. The big rideshare brands like Uber and Lyft, for example, have put a range of measures in place, like the possibility to share your ride journey with friends so they can track where you are. They can also be set up to make emergency security calls if you need help or send you notifications and offer help if the driver seems to be driving the wrong way.

What to Do if You Notice Someone’s Signal?

Rokas Tenys/

If you see someone use the hand signal for help, it’s important to know how to respond in an appropriate way without putting the person at risk. If it happens in a video chat, for example, you shouldn’t respond immediately and start saying things like “Do you need help?” because the abuser may be able to hear you.

Instead, contact the person in a more discreet way, like text or social media, and ask simple yes or no questions to make it easier for them to respond. Questions you could ask include “Are you safe?” “Do you need me to call 911?” and “Can I call a shelter for you?”

If you see the sign in a public place, the best option is usually to find a nearby police or security officer or call the police and let them know. Be discreet and try to find out any information that could be useful to the police, like a license plate of a vehicle if the person gave you the signal through the window of a car, for example.

Resources for Help

If you’re a victim of domestic violence or know someone else who is, there are various organizations out there ready to help, including:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
  • National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV): 1-303-839-1852


What Are the 3 Hand Signals?

The term “three hand signals” is usually used in reference to the three arm and hand signals that cyclists use to signal when they’re turning or slowing down.

What Is the Universal SOS Signal?

SOS is a Morse code signal that can be understood and used around the world. It consists of three dots, three dashes, and three dots.

What Is the Hand Signal if You’re in Trouble?

The hand signal to use if you’re in trouble is to tuck your thumb against your palm and then wrap your fingers over to cover the thumb.

Learn and Look for the Hand Signal for Help

Unfortunately, many people fall victim to sexual and domestic abuse, and it can be so hard to reach out and make cry for help. The hand signal for help is one of the safest ways these victims can get assistance. The more people know this signal, the more powerful it can become, so make sure to learn it yourself and share this with other parents and people in your circle who might need it in the future.

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