Social media can save your life, it seems. It's by copying a hand gesture popularized by TikTok that a missing teenage girl was saved from a vehicle, after she attracted the attention of a passing motorist.
It's a story with a happy ending and, for once, it's all thanks to social media. A motorist alerted authorities after spotting a young girl who appeared to be in danger in a vehicle in Kentucky, according to US news reports. The driver said he recognized the hand sign the teenager was making -- a gesture widely popularized by the social network TikTok, and which implies domestic violence. The gesture involves visibly placing the thumb in the open palm of the hand, before folding the four fingers over the top. "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 complainant advised 911 that the female appeared to be in distress," the Laurel County Sheriff's Office said in a statement on its Facebook page.
After stopping the car, police officers were able to check the identity of the teenager -- a 16-year-old girl from Asheville, North Carolina, who had been reported missing by her parents several days earlier. James Herbert Brick, the 61-year-old man driving the car, was arrested following the police stop.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SIGNAL
Isolation can increase the risk of violence at home. Use this discrete gesture during a video call to show you need help:
1. Hold hand up with palm facing other person.
2. Tuck thumb into palm.
3. Fold fingers down over thumb. pic.twitter.com/gsIgSbXOmc
— Halton Police (@HaltonPolice) August 24, 2021
According to police statements reported by CNN, the girl learned the gesture from videos seen on TikTok. Numerous videos on the Chinese social network have served as tutorials to help victims of domestic violence to signal their situation discreetly, and for others to recognize the gesture. "We don't know how long coming down the interstate from Ohio that she had been doing this to other motorists hoping that they would notice that she was in distress, but finally someone did recognize," Laurel County Sheriff's Deputy Gilbert Acciardo told WYMT.
The distinctive sign became popular on TikTok during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which takes place in October in the US. This international sign has been widely picked up online and shared via several hashtags, such as "handsignalforhelp," which has over 624,300 views.