A Tennessee woman was able to escape a domestic violence and kidnapping situation by using a hand signal popularized on to alert to shoppers at a convenience store that she was in need of help.
The woman went into the Twice Daily convenience store on Sunday and mouthed ‘help’ to customers while repeatedly making a hand signal where she covered her thumb with her four other fingers.
Eric Streeval was in the store when she ran in, and immediately recognized she was in need of assistance.
‘If you see something, say something,’ Streeval told. ‘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.’
Streeval, who is part of a motorcycle club that helps women struggling with domestic violence issues, immediately told the convenience store’s checkout clerk to call the police. He then took a photo of the license plate of the pickup truck the woman had gotten out of.
When police arrived at the store, the pickup truck was leaving the parking lot. Witnesses told deputies to follow the truck, and a pursuit ensued for about 10 to 15 minutes, authorities in Hickman County said.
The man driving the truck, identified as 31-year-old Johnathon Smith, crashed the vehicle and tried to flee on foot. Authorities used a Taser to subdue and arrest him. He was charged with aggravated kidnapping and aggravated domestic assault.
The unidentified woman was not injured in the accident.
Streeval later reached out to her through social media to try and set her up with local domestic violence resources, he told WKRN.
‘I would just tell her to lean on the family if she’s got family, or find a complete stranger,’ he said. ‘If someone’s willing to listen, talk to him. Don’t think everything is bundled up inside. Reach out to somebody and just believe in the good in somebody.’
The hand signal the woman used was created by the Canadian Women’s Foundation at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in order for people stuck in domestic violence situations to discretely alert others that they are in need of help.
The hand signal is made by placing the palm of the hand outward, tucking the thumb into the palm and repeatedly bringing the four other fingers down over the thumb.
Videos of the signal were shared on social media platforms like TikTok and Twitter, especially at the start of 2020, when domestic violence incidents spiked as the world was in Covid-19 lockdowns.
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