The 19-year-old woman in Hickman County, Tennessee, was kidnapped by her ex-boyfriend.
A 19-year-old woman in Hickman County, Tennessee, has been rescued from a kidnapping after she learned a hand signal for help that has been popularized on TikTok. According to Canadian Woman's Foundation, "the 'Signal for Help' is a simple one-handed sign someone can use on a video call. It can help a person silently show they need help and want someone to check in with them in a safe way. The Signal for Help was launched by the Canadian Women’s Foundation in response to COVID-19, and is now being shared by partner organizations around the world."
The Hickman County woman was visiting her brother on Sunday when her ex-boyfriend, Johnathon Smith, began threatening her. The woman then got into a truck with the 31-year-old, according to sheriff’s office Lt. Mike Doddo, reports the Tennessean. They began traveling east on Highway 100 and “got into a physical altercation” in the truck, Doddo said. “The girlfriend then asked to be let out. He said, ‘No,’” Doddo said. “(Smith) then threatened to kill her by grabbing a screwdriver and telling her, if he couldn’t have her, nobody could have her.”
A Tennessee woman was able to escape a domestic violence and kidnapping situation by using a hand signal popularized on TikTok to alert to shoppers at a convenience store that she was in need of help. https://t.co/8oXtiLVrf5— Metro (@MetroUK) April 15, 2022
The woman was taken to a gas station and while inside, she signaled to the gas station clerk by tucking her thumb into her hand with four fingers over it. The clerk repeated the gesture back and the woman nodded, yes, he said. Doddo added that the hand signal was learned from TikTok. A Hickman County Sheriff’s officer pulled into the gas station. After a 15-minute car chase, Smith's truck crashed into a creek. A foot pursuit ensued until Smith was captured, according to Doddo. The woman was found unharmed.
The Violence At Home Hand Signal for HELP !!!! pic.twitter.com/rssp2wwXGn— Leslie Mack (@lesliemack) April 14, 2022
A gas station customer, Eric Streeval recalled seeing the woman at the store mouthing the word “help.” He is a part of a motorcycle group that helps women in domestic violence situations and commended the woman for asking for help. “If you see something, say something,” Streeval told WKRN. “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.” He's also reached out to the woman to offer resources to help her through the ordeal. "I would just tell her lean on family if she’s got family, [or] find a complete stranger. If someone’s willing to listen, talk to him. Don’t think everything bundled up inside. Reach out to somebody and just believe the good in somebody,” he said. As for Smith, he is currently charged with aggravated kidnapping and aggravated domestic assault, with more charges pending, according to officials.