Last year, the Canadian Women’s Foundation introduced a hand gesture that is meant to communicate a plea for help due to a violent home environment. This hand gesture was subsequently circulated on the social media platform TikTok and adopted by women around the world who must discreetly inform others of their distress.
The importance of simple hand signals like this was amplified by the pandemic stay-at-home orders which were put in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 but at the expense of exacerbating many unsafe situations at home.
Just last week, the hand signal proved crucial in the rescue of a missing 16-year-old girl who had been kidnapped by an older man.
Another driver saw the girl inside a silver Toyota using the hand gesture near London, Kentucky, approximately 150 miles southeast of Louisville. The driver proceeded to call the police after noticing “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,” reads the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office statement, issued two days after the incident.
As reported by The Guardian, the caller communicated that the girl “appeared to be in distress,” and was alone in the car with the older driver.
In response, Laurel sheriff’s investigators waited for an opportunity to intercept the Toyota while it exited the highway, where authorities discovered that the teenager’s parents had reported the girl missing a few days before.
According to the teenager in question, she had traveled through North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio with her captor, and had been trying to get the attention of other motorists for the duration of this trip.
James Herbert Brick, 61, was arrested at the scene and charged with unlawful imprisonment. He is currently still in custody.
While social media may have its downfalls, it has proved to be an effective tool to empower and mobilize today’s youth, who continue to demonstrate their resourcefulness and resilience through innovative means.
The gesture consists of placing your hand upright and open with the palm facing out and the thumb tucked in, followed by the action of folding the other four fingers down.