How to save a life: experts weigh in on viral TikTok trend that saved a missing girl

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(WEHT) – A 16-year-old from North Carolina, traveling through Kentucky, was saved after a passerby noticed she was signaling a viral TikTok hand motion, showing that she was in distress. Luckily the other motorist was familiar with the signal, but not everyone is.

“Many of the kids may know the hand sign to signify the help,” said Kentucky State Trooper Corey King, “but will the receiver know that that’s what that means and will they call the police for you or will they notify the police in some means?”

While the hand signal is a key call for help, there are many ways to assist a victim. The first step is teaching prevention.

“We would much prefer to prevent abuse and abduction before it begins, right?” said Kristine Cordts, Executive Director of Holly’s House. “And so we want people to be aware of their surroundings and to have a repertoire of friends and connections that they consider safe people.”

Cordts says it’s important for families to have a system in place to keep each other safe. “We ask people to have safe words that they use. Either with their children, whenever they change pickups. Or with teenagers who can text a safe word if they’re in a situation that’s making them feel uncomfortable and unsafe. We teach kids even from kindergarten age to learn to trust their gut.”

Law enforcement says if you do find yourself in a vulnerable situation, speak out.

“Make a scene. Cause a scene. If there’s a busy area, you’re in the middle of a fairly good area, if you’re stopped at a stoplight in the middle of the day, there’s a lot of visibility on you, you can make a scene. If you feel like your life’s in jeopardy, in that case; what do you have to lose? Get out of the vehicle, cause a scene, do something to bring attention to yourself, and odds are that perpetrator is gonna flee the scene.” added King.

King says you can call 911, keep the phone on, and set it down for the operator to hear.

“That is one way that we can track and trace that phone down and possibly retrieve you from that vehicle and at that point, most telecommunicators – whether they’re dealing with 911 or non-primary calls – they will know what to do with an open line, a 911 open line. At that point they will ping your phone and try to get your exact coordinates so they can send help.”

Tri-State domestic violence centers say that it shouldn’t always have to be the victims responsibility and that bystanders should be on the lookout for suspicious behavior and act on it.

“If we were all just like more aware and looking out for each other,” said Hannah Brewer, Crisis Intervention Specialist at Albion Fellows Bacon Center. “We talk a lot about the bystander effect. So, you’d think the more people around in a situation, the more likely the victim would be to receive help. But statistics have shown that the more people that are around and the more bystanders that there are, the least likely they are to receive help because everybody thinks ‘oh somebody else already called. I’m sure somebody else has taken care of this’.”

“If you see someone a little bit out of place, or maybe someone that seems like they’re in distress, it’s so tempting to be like ‘well I don’t want to get involved, that’s not my business.’ If you see something, say something. Let that person be you. Don’t be scared to intervene. Whether it’s directly talking to this person or maybe asking like an employee to intervene, even just like calling for help and calling dispatch, whatever you feel comfortable with – it’s just always better to do something than nothing,” added Brewer.

if you or anyone you know needs assistance from Holly’s House, Evansville’s non-residential child and adult victim advocacy center, you can visit their website here. For the Albion Fellows Bacon Center, the organization and shelter working with victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, visit their website here.

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