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Day 2 of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence

AWC Berlin is participating in 2020’s “16 Days” campaign by posting stories on gender-based violence to inform and inspire action. Follow the series on our blog and social media and let us know what actions you’re taking.

Signals for Help

by Angela A., AWC Berlin Member

During the pandemic, the risk of violence inside and outside the home has increased, especially for women and girls. At the same time, options for finding help and shelter have been reduced, while the call for help itself can be dangerous for at-risk women and girls.

Around the world and in Germany, projects have been launched to help women suffering domestic abuse and sexual assault reach out without alerting their abuser. Let me introduce you to three important ones.

Hand Signal for Help

image credit: Canadian Women’s Association

Launched this year in North America by the Canadian Women’s Foundation and now in use in Germany, the hand signal for help can be used during a video call or in person. If you are signaled for help, don’t respond directly, either verbally or nonverbally, because this may endanger the victim further. If you know the person who signaled is in immediate danger, call your local emergency services or, in Berlin, call the police (dial 110). Otherwise check on the person safely and without alerting their abuser.

To find out more about how to check on an at-risk person and to watch a video of the signal being used, go to the “Call to Action” section below.

Code Words: Maske 19

The code words “Maske 19” (pronounced mask-uh noint-zen) can be used in pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and clinics by at-risk women who cannot otherwise safely ask for assistance. The code has been successfully introduced in France and Spain. In Germany, Zonta International has launched an initiative to train doctors and pharmacists to respond by contacting the police immediately. Participating locations will display the Zonta “Maske 19” materials to let those seeking help know it’s available.

Code Phrase: Ist Luisa hier?

Not yet as well-known in Berlin as in other parts of Germany, the code phrase “Ist Luisa hier?” signals employees in bars, clubs, and restaurants that the speaker feels threatened or is being sexually harassed and needs discreet assistance. Inspired by the Lincolnshire initiative “Ask for Angela,” the Women’s Emergency Call Center Münster e.V. launched the “Luisa ist Hier” project, changing the name to “Luisa,” which is easier to understand in German in a noisy environment. The program is being adopted across Germany and is now on its way to Berlin.

Last Word

Never forget how much better the world would be if more people would share Elie Wiesel’s commitment:

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

Call to Action
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