A North Carolina Teen Used a TikTok Hand Signal to Get Help and Flee Her Abductor

After a North Carolina teen used a TikTok hand signal for help after being abducted, creators are interested in learning the hand gesture.

Tatayana Yomary - Author

Nov. 8 2021, Published 11:52 a.m. ET

From cyberbullying to harmful trends, it’s safe to say that social media has its downsides. However, there are instances where social media works to our advantage. In particular, some signals on TikTok have become common knowledge and help people stay safe.

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TikTok is home to creators who go viral for challenges and trends spanning everything from food to fitness. Even though TikTok has been a hot topic due to questionable trends, people now have a deeper appreciation for the app after a hand signal for help saved the life of a missing teenage girl. What exactly does the TikTok hand signal consist of? Here’s the 4-1-1.

TikTok app
Source: Getty Images
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A missing North Carolina teen used the TikTok hand signal to call for help in order to escape her abductor.

Thank the heavens for TikTok! According to People, a missing North Carolina teenager was rescued by Kentucky police on Nov. 4, 2021, after signaling for help using a hand gesture she learned on the short-form video app.

The Laurel County Sheriff’s Office shared that the 16-year-old teenager was initially reported missing by her parents on Nov. 2, 2021. On Nov. 4, 2021, a motorist in Kentucky reportedly called 911 after seeing the teen showcase the hand signal on the highway.

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The TikTok hand signal for help, which was created by the Canadian Women’s Foundation, is a one-handed sign an individual can use when in distress and to indicate violence at home. It starts by putting your hand up with your palm facing forward. Next, you tuck your thumb inward while your four fingers are extended out. Finally, you close your finger to trap your thumb, like a reverse fist.

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"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 TikTok to represent violence at home — I need help — domestic violence," the Laurel County Sheriff's Office said in a press release.

The motorist also shared with authorities that the vehicle was being driven by a male and proceeded to give law enforcement his exact location.

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Once police arrived on the scene, they pulled the vehicle over and brought the teenager to safety. After investigating, police found a phone in the suspect's possession that "allegedly portrayed a juvenile female in a sexual manner." The driver, 61-year-old James Brick, was immediately arrested and charged with unlawful imprisonment and "possession of matter sex performance by a minor."

The teenager later shared that the suspect took her through North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio where he had relatives, per the press release. Once the suspect’s relatives learned that the teenager was reported missing and underage, the suspect fled Ohio and began traveling south. The teenager then started to do the TikTok hand signal to get the attention of motorists.

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Social media users have praised the Canadian Women’s Foundation for the TikTok hand signal.

Since the story of the rescued teen has gone viral, creators have been praising the Canadian Women’s Foundation for creating the hand signal for help. As of this writing, the TikTok video teaching the signal has garnered 1.1 million likes and nearly 133,000 shares.

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In the video, two women are seemingly having a friendly discussion about a banana bread recipe. But, one of the women is actually signaling to the other that she is in distress, without tipping off the male in the background. At the end of the video, a quick tutorial of the hand signal is shown for reference.

“Women looking out for women. A blessing indeed,” one user commented.

“The hand gesture is the best way when you can speak, but can’t do it because of fear,” another user commented.

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Truthfully, you never know when your life could be in danger. Hence why the TikTok hand signal for help comes in major clutch for moments when you need help but can’t vocalize it.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

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