How Spotting This Distress Hand Signal, Seen on TikTok, Could Save Someone's Life

The amount of information TikTok holds knows no bounds, but one recent viral topic deserves a spotlight. On Nov. 4, a girl in North Carolina was rescued from a potentially dangerous situation after using a distress hand signal, made popular on TikTok, to let other motorists know she was in need of help. The hand signal in question was the "Signal For Help," a small, simple hand signal that involves tucking your thumb into your open palm then folding your other fingers over it. It comes from the Canadian Women's Foundation, which launched a campaign during the 2020 stay-at-home orders — when the United States saw an increase in domestic violence incidents — to offer those in dangerous domestic situations a discreet method to ask for help.

The Signal For Help has proved a useful tool not only for combatting domestic violence but also for other unsafe situations, like in the case of the previously mentioned North Carolina individual. That positive outcome is indicative of the importance of widespread awareness about the signal, as well as the power of social media in spreading the word. Of course, just as crucial as recognizing the signal is knowing how to respond. If you're on the receiving end of the Signal For Help, the Canadian Women's Foundation recommends checking in with the person safely, if you can, by asking yes or no questions or discreetly providing them with helpful resources. If there's an immediate threat, though, it may be best to call 911 or another emergency service.

How to Do the TikTok Distress Hand Signal

  1. Face your palm outward and tuck your thumb into it.
  2. Fold your remaining fingers over your thumb

While the signal was originally intended for those in domestic-abuse situations, keep in mind that it works for several other emergencies. Read on to see exactly how this signal works.

If you are experiencing domestic violence in the United States and need help you can go to to chat with someone or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

The "Signal For Help" Distress Hand Signal on TikTok