Silent hand signal that helped rescue U.S. teen was originally created in Canada

TORONTO — A silent signal, an open hand, a thumb tucked in, then covered by four fingers, originally created in Canada to help women who are in distress has played a major role in saving a 16-year-old girl in the United States.

“It was definitely a relief to see not only that this young woman in such a dangerous situation could use the signal but people knew how to respond to the signal,” Andrea Gunraj from the Canadian Women’s Foundation told CTV News Toronto.

The Canadian Women’s Foundation created this signal and launched a campaign in April 2020. It was aimed at helping who may be in a dangerous situation at home reach out while in lockdown. 

Gunraj was surprised at how well it was received. 

“By July of 2020 we found that 1 in 3 people in Canada had heard of the signal for help or saw it being used and it went viral all over the world,” she said. “Over 70 countries showed it.” 

Teen rescued with hand signals learned on TikTok

The signal gained traction on social media, particularity on Tik Tok with multiple posts aimed at teaching young women how to quietly call for help. 

That is exactly what a 16-year-old girl was doing, through the passenger window of a car on the I-75 South in Kentucky a little after 12 p.m. this past Thursday. 

“There was some people behind her, that noticed she was making hand gestures that signifies for, I need help,” Deputy Gilbert Acciardo from Laurel county Sheriff department in Kentucky said.

The girl, who is from North Carolina had been missing since Tuesday. She had been taken by a man in a car from her home state, to Ohio, and then headed south when she was spotted. 

Those who saw the signal,called 911, following the car she was in for nearly 15 kilometers, until police were able to make a traffic stop. 

“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,” says Acciardo. 

James Herbert Brick, 61, was arrested and is facing charges of unlawful imprisonment, and possession of material showing a sexual performance by a minor. 

Now the girl is being reunited with her family in North Carolina. Something that could have been so much worse, stopped by a hand signal. 

“What a powerful thing,” Andrea Gunraj said. “ A signal is only as good as it’s responded to.” 

Knowing that this signal can convey the most important of messages, understood by so many, and it’s working.

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