Viral TikTok hand signal for help saves missing teen

Georgina Smith
Graphic of hand signal to indicate distresscanadianwomen.org

A missing 16-year-old girl has been saved after she used a hand signal for distress that went viral on TikTok to get the attention of passing vehicles.

With such a huge userbase, TikTok is increasingly becoming the place to go to spread awareness about important causes online, and the hand signal for help was one of them.

The signal for help campaign was launched by the Canadian Women’s Foundation in 2020, and was originally used as a way for a person to silently indicate that they need help or are in a dangerous domestic situation via video calls.

It quickly went viral on TikTok, with people spreading the word about the potentially life-saving signal across the app. To use the gesture, face your palm forward, tuck your thumb over your palm, and then fold your fingers over your thumb.

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Now, a missing 16-year-old girl from North Carolina has been saved after using the signal to alert passing cars to her distress.

Deputies told WKYT that the person who called 911 did so after seeing the girl give the signal from inside the car she was in. They reportedly stayed on the phone with dispatchers until police intercepted and stopped the car.

61-year-old James Herbert Brick was arrested for “unlawful imprisonment” of the teen who had been reported missing several days prior.

TikTok logo on a black screenUnsplash: Solen Feyissa
TikTok’s huge userbase makes it a useful place for spreading awareness

The Canadian Women’s Foundation explains that if you see someone making the signal, “check in with the person safely to find out what they need and want you to do.” They also state that it does not necessarily mean you should call the authorities right away, and instead means, “reach out to me safely.”

The incident has prompted more people to re-share the viral hand signal in the hopes of raising awareness and potentially saving lives.

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