A recent TikTok trend teaching hand motion distress signals is spreading rapidly after a kidnapping case raised awareness of the usefulness of hand signs.
In the case, a missing girl from North Carolina used a hand signal she learned from TikTok to alert drivers on the interstate that she was in danger.
The girl was in the passenger’s seat of a vehicle driving through Kentucky when she used the signal – a thumb in the palm tucked under the fingers – to get attention, according to the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office.
The signal was created by the Canadian Women’s Foundation as a way to indicate abuse or danger without vocalizing it in front of their abuser. Other organizations like the World Bank and Women’s Funding Network have promoted the signals since 2020.
According to police, a motorist familiar with the signs called 911, and sheriff’s deputies quickly responded by pulling the vehicle over. Upon investigation, they found the girl had been reported missing by her parents two days earlier.
Although the responding officers had never seen the signal before, they praised the girl for using it. Officer Acciardo said the signal can be a useful tool for law enforcement.
“This is probably the best thing I’ve seen come along in the 48 years I’ve been a patrol officer,” he said.
Shannon Doherty, a mother who posts lifestyle hacks on TikTok, said that people should be educated on the signals, and praised the platform as an effective educational tool.
“I think it’s amazing. One of the reasons I love TikTok so much is for the educational side and the way the community really comes together to learn things,” she told WTNH8.
There are several hand motions signals created by the foundation, including “I need help”, “violence at home” or “domestic violence.”
It remains to be seen how the law enforcement community will react to the trend.
Trooper First Class Christine Jeltema of the Connecticut State Police is sticking to communication basics for now.
“We want parents to talk to their children and let them know that if you need help, find a way. “It’s see something, say something. Call. We’re the ones that can go out there and determine whether or not someone truly needs help. That’s our job,” Jeltema said.