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The ‘help’ hand gesture: What is it and how does it work?

What one teen did to aid in her rescue is taking the internet by storm. 

According to a Kentucky sheriff’s office, the 16-year-old was using a sign she learned on TikTok to signal for help. With a simple hand gesture, authorities were able to find her and arrest the man accused of holding her captive. 

Turns out, the sign she used wasn’t just made up on the popular social media app. It’s a subtle signal for those who are suffering from domestic violence. 

“It just looked like she was waving at people, she had no idea that she was putting out a distress signal,” Laurel County Sheriff’s Department Public Information Officer Gilbert Acciardo told WHAS11 News.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian Women’s Foundation introduced a hand gesture for people to use to ask for help. 

The gesture was originally meant to be a quiet but direct way for people to signal on a video call they needed help and it wouldn’t leave a digital trace such as a text message or other direct online message. 

This was especially useful when home isolation and quarantine were a public health directive for much of the world at the time. The organization said “disaster situations” can lead to a surge in gender-based violence and could “increase danger and risk for people in abusive relationships.”

Here’s how the signal works — hold your palm up and tuck your thumb against your palm. Then, “trap” your thumb beneath your fingers.

If you see someone use the signal, the CWF said to check in with the person safely and see what they may need or want you to do. 

“Let them lead the conversation,” the foundation said. “They may want you to call authorities, but do not assume that is what they want or need.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, support is out there. Reach out to the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

By 10 Tampa Bay

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