A distress hand signal sequence shared on TikTok could save your child's life

hand signal help
(Image credit: Getty)

A hand signal sequence shared on TikTok could save your child's life, amid news that a missing girl was found after using the distress signal to get help.

There's a simple way for victims of domestic abuse or violence or kidnapping to get help discreetly thanks to a Canadian Women's Foundation that devised an effecting hand-signal sequence that can be used to give a distress signal.

Not only is learning the hand sequence key to saving your life but it could also help you identify someone else who is in danger and enable you to help them without putting their life at further risk.

And that's what happened when a 16-year-old girl reported missing from Asheville N.C, was in distress in the passenger seat of a car travelling through Kentucky. She made the hand signal to the drivers of passing cars until someone noticed it as an SOS.

Her abuser was unaware of the call for help as it also resembles a wave. But one driver of a passing car recognised the signal from TikTok, and knew it was no ordinary wave.

And if you're wondering what the emergency distress hand signal looks like here are the steps you need to know...

distress alert hand signal

(Image credit: Canadian Women's Foundation)

The girl used the distress signal, tucking her thumb into her palm before closing her fingers over it, according to the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office.

The driver who spotted the signal called 911 and conveyed a suspicion that the girl was in trouble because she was using the hand gesture.

Even though the dispatcher and officers were unfamiliar with the signal, sheriff’s deputies pulled the car over to investigate and discovered that the girl’s parents had reported her missing two days earlier.

The signal was first created by the Canadian Women’s Foundation for people to indicate that they are at risk of abuse and need help, has spread largely through TikTok in the past year.

This video below shows you how effective it can be during video calls to colleagues friends, or family when it's used alongside a normal conversation so as to not raise suspicion over the hand gesture.


Gilbert Acciardo, public affairs officer for the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office said, “I don’t think any of us realised what that was. But we certainly do now.”

“This is probably the best thing I’ve seen come along in the 48 years I’ve been a patrol officer,” he added.

Sheriff’s deputies arrested the driver, James Herbert Brick, 61, of Cherokee, N.C., and charged him with unlawful imprisonment. Mr. Brick, who the sheriff’s office said had pornographic images of a child on his phone, also faces a child pornography charge.

The Canadian Women’s Foundation advises that anyone who sees the signal should not necessarily immediately call the authorities, but should instead reach out safely, if possible, to the person who used it.

Andrea Gunraj, the Canadian Women’s Foundation’s vice president of public engagement said, "It is a relief to hear that somebody was able to use the signal in a very dangerous situation and that somebody knew how to respond.”

Selina Maycock
Senior Family Writer

Selina is a Senior Family Writer for GoodtoKnow and has more than 16 years years of experience. She specialises in royal family news, including the latest activities of Prince George, Charlotte, Louis, Archie and Lilibet. She also covers the latest government, health and charity advice for families. Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism, and gained her NCTJ and NCE qualifications. During her career, she’s also written for Woman, Woman's Own, Woman&Home, and Woman's Weekly as well as Heat magazine, Bang Showbiz - and the Scunthorpe Telegraph. When she's not covering family news, you can find her exploring new countryside walking routes, catching up with friends over good food, or making memories (including award-winning scarecrows!)