Hand SOS gesture allows arrest of alleged aggressor in Barcelona

A worker at a medical centre in Sarrià-Sant Gervasi recognised the gesture made by a woman in the waiting room

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The international gesture of relief

BarcelonaIn a waiting room of a medical centre in the Sarrià-Sant Gervasi district, a woman made an international hand gesture for help: she opened her hand, stretched out her fingers –with the palm facing outwards–, hid her thumb inside the palm and finally folded the other four fingers over the thumb, making into a fist. A worker at the medical centre recognised this gesture, which has become popular lately to help victims of male violence, and alerted 112. When the Mossos d'Esquadra arrived at the scene, they arrested the man for alleged abuse.

It is the first time this gesture has led to an arrest in the state. As explained by Betevé, the events took place on November 12 at around half past two in the afternoon. After speaking with the victim and the alleged aggressor, the Mossos arrested the 64-year-old man, who has no criminal record. The woman reportedly said that she was constantly insulted and scorned by the man, who sometimes pushed her. They had been in a relationship for ten years.

According to the woman, she made the gesture because she did not know how to verbalize what was happening between the couple. Just a few days ago the Mossos released a video on social networks in which they explained that they were joining a global campaign calling for the use of this distress signal if you are in danger so that others can alert the police.

Gestures and phrases to warn of danger

The gesture has gained notoriety in recent days because police in Kentucky, in the United States, were able to free a 16-year-old girl who had been kidnapped thanks to this signal. A driver called the police to report that he had seen a girl inside a vehicle making this hand gesture and he had identified the sign because he remembered that TikTok had explained that it was used to report domestic violence. The man said the teenager "appeared to be in danger". After receiving the tip-off, the police acted: officers were able to stop the vehicle and found that the girl's parents had reported her missing.

This gesture, which is known around the world, was devised last year in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic, when the harshest lockdown meant being locked indoors. A Canadian foundation promoted it so that it could be used by victims of male violence who were forced to live with their aggressor during lockdown: the sign was intended to be used to ask for help. Since then it has spread and has now been used to free the victim from abduction.

Another way of denouncing violence is the phrase "Is Angela there?", which is the password for a woman to alert professionals in nightlife venues when she is not comfortable with the company she keeps or has suffered harassment. This is an initiative by nightlife business associations such as Fesacarm and International Nightlife.