Man saves teen in backseat of passing car thanks to domestic abuse hand gesture learned on TikTok

When the Canadian Women’s Foundation (CWF) launched its “Signal for Help” campaign, they had no idea how quickly it would spread over social media. But thanks to its ingenuity, Signal for Help has now helped save a 16-year-old girl’s life.

A 16-year-old girl from Asheville, North Carolina, was reported missing by her parents.

Two days later, a motorist saw a distressed teen making a hand signal in the backseat of a car on the interstate.

It turns out that signal was CWF’s “Signal for Help” hand gesture.

The hand signal was specifically designed to alert onlookers that a victim was suffering from domestic violence in situations where it may not be safe for them to speak.

The 16-year-old girl and passing motorist had both learned about CWF’s “Signal for Help” on TikTok, where videos of the signal being used had been shared and viewed millions of times.

A statement released by the Laurel County Sherriff’s Office reads:

“The complainant was behind the vehicle and noticed a female passenger in the vehicle making hand gestures that are known on the social media platform ‘Tik Tok’ to represent violence at home — I need help — domestic violence.”

The signal was originally developed back in March of 2020, as the foundation anticipated a surge of domestic violence cases to occur with lockdowns.

According to the Americal Journal of Emergency Medicine (as reported by TIME), major cities across the US reported a drastic increase in domestic violence reports during lockdown. For instance, an 18% increase in San Antonio, a 22% increase in Portland, and a 10% increase in New York.

So what is the “Signal for Help”?

The signal is a one-handed gesture that consists of holding up one’s hand with the palm facing forward, then tucking one’s thumb into the hand, and closing the fingers to trap the thumb.

During its creation, the foundation had hoped to develop a signal that could be done while the victim was holding a phone, so the one-handed signal was decided upon. The trapping of the thumb is also supposed to represent the victim being trapped in a dangerous situation.

Upon seeing the teen’s “Signal for Help,” the motorist immediately alerted authorities.

The man then proceeded to follow the car for 7 miles until Kentucky police were able to pull the driver over and rescue the teen girl.

The driver, 61-year-old James Herbert Brick, was arrested.

Laurel County Sherriff’s Deputy Gilbert Acciardo does not believe Brick was aware that the teen was using the hand signal.

“He obviously thought she was waving at individuals and she wasn’t.”

“She was using that signal, the TikTok signal, to signify ‘I’m in distress.’”

“Thank goodness there was a motorist out there that interpreted that [and] phoned 911,” he added. “It was just a wonderful resolution.”

If you’re ever in a situation where you see someone using the “Signal for Help,” the CWF advises checking in with the person to see what they need. If the victim is in immediate danger, like the 16-year-old teen in this story, then you should immediately alert the police.

In a statement, Andrea Gunraj of the CWF stated:

“It was really relieving to hear that this young woman was able to do this and that people understood what was going on and that they were able to call for help in that circumstance.”

Learn more about “Signal for Help” and the teen’s rescue in the video below!

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