"A simple tool like this can help somebody get safety."
After a girl was rescued from an alleged kidnapper in Kentucky thanks to her use of a TikTok-spread hand signal, the foundation behind it says there's still more to do in the fight against gender-based violence.
The hand signal recently made headlines across the world after a 16-year-old girl used it while in a car with her alleged kidnapper. An onlooker recognized the signal and called the police, ultimately saving the child.
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Suzanne Duncan is the vice president of philanthropy at the Canadian Women's Foundation, the organization that developed the signal in partnership with agency Juniper Park\TBWA.
Duncan says that despite the "tragic and scary" situation, the silver lining is that no one was hurt and that more people are talking about the signal.
"A simple tool like this can help somebody get safety and also help open conversations about gender-based violence," she said.
The CWF introduced the signal back in April 2020, knowing that rates of gender-based violence go up during any natural disaster, like a pandemic. Duncan said the foundation has seen examples of its use globally since then, and this latest instance left her with a "profound feeling."
"I don't want to say it's gratifying because it's not, that was a scary situation, it was very dangerous for her."
"[But] the amount of attention that this is getting, the amount of conversations this is opening up, it really feels like we're having a moment right now where we can start to push forward some real practical changes that are going to keep a lot of people safe," she said.
This latest round of press coincides with plans the CWF already had to keep promoting the signal, including a campaign with the federal government based around how to open a conversation with someone you're worried about.
And with winter coming up — a time when economic uncertainty and more time inside can be dangerous for people in violent situations — Duncan said she hopes people can look beyond the TikTok buzz of the story.
"The bigger part of the story is [that] with everyone's attention turned to the pandemic, with the kind of stresses that it's causing, we are really seeing women and gender-diverse people in a lot of risk right now."
She added, "I want to make sure that we keep the attention on that part of the story, and really use the tools like TikTok and social media and our own connections to help keep more people safe."
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