Lifestyle & Human Interest

Hand Signal Made Popular on TikTok Saves Woman from Ex Who Kidnapped and Threatened to Kill Her


These days if you see a story with “TikTok” in the title, you’re more than likely going to read about some ridiculous new challenge imperiling both teenagers and common sense.

But here’s a positive story directly tied to a hand signal made popular across the social media platform to subtly let others know if you are in a dangerous situation. First: The signal itself.

“This signal is meant for victims of domestic abuse and it allows them to reach out for help without alerting their abusers,” Break The Silence Against Domestic Violence tweeted.

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“If you see someone doing this sign in public or social media, know that they are reaching out for help.”

The hand motion starts out as if the person is waving, with fingers extended and palm facing outward, but then the thumb tucks in across the palm and the fingers close over it, making a fist.

In order for this method to be effective, both the victim and the person they are trying to communicate with must know what the signal means, and the abuser must not see it.

Eric Streeval of Tennessee was at a convenience store Sunday in Hickman County when he spotted a young woman in trouble who was in the store with a man, according to the Tennessean. As part of a motorcycle group that assists victims of domestic violence situations, Streeval was well-acquainted with the sign of distress.

First, the young woman mouthed “help,” then she repeatedly made the hand signal. The cashier also realized what was going on and tried to stall, pretending the cash register wasn’t working, while staff called police and Streeval took a photo of the truck they’d arrived in.

The man with the young woman seemed to realize something was off and took her back out to the pickup truck. Deputies arrived just as the truck left the parking lot, but witnesses pointed out the vehicle and the authorities pursued it.

It took around 15 minutes before the chase ended with the vehicle crashing into a creek, and then the driver, 31-year-old Johnathan Smith, got out and ran. Smith was chased, tased and arrested. He was charged with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated domestic assault and more. The woman was taken to safety.

According to what police later told the Tennessean, Smith was the woman’s ex-boyfriend. He had picked her up from her brother’s house and they got into a physical altercation in the car. It went downhill from there.

“The girlfriend then asked to be let out,” Lieutenant Mike Doddo said. “He said, ‘No.’ (Smith) then threatened to kill her by grabbing a screwdriver and telling her, if he couldn’t have her, nobody could have her.”

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Streeval is using the opportunity to urge others to be aware of the others around them, and he also commended the young woman for her bravery in asking for help.

“If you see something, say something,” Eric Streeval told WKRN-TV. “Domestic violence is a bad thing here in Tennessee … the victims, a lot of times they’re too afraid to speak out. And I credit the young lady in this situation with having the world’s most courage of actually speaking out because who knows what would have happened.

“I would just tell her lean on family if … she’s got family, [or] find somebody, a complete stranger. If someone’s willing to listen, talk to him. Don’t keep everything bundled up inside … Reach out to somebody and just, just believe, believe the good in somebody.”

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