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Good Secrets and Bad Secrets

Toni McMorris


This signal is designed to empower individuals in perilous situations to covertly signal for assistance without tipping off potential aggressors.


The hand signal is simple yet effective: start with an open hand, palm facing out, then cross the thumb over the palm and close the fingers to form a fist. This motion should be repeated subtly to catch the attention of someone who can help. McMorris underscores the importance of widespread recognition, especially among children, employees, law enforcement, emergency responders, and medical personnel.


Awareness is key, as abusers often accompany victims to healthcare facilities, making it crucial for staff to recognize and react to the hand signal.

Originally developed by the Canadian Women's Association in 2020, the signal gained traction on TikTok, yet many remain unfamiliar with this potentially life-saving tool. 


A notable instance of its successful use occurred in 2021, when a teenager in Kentucky signaled distress from a vehicle. A vigilant 911 caller noticed the repeated hand signal, which ultimately led to the teen's rescue by Laurel County Sheriff John Root's department. The missing North Carolina teen was safely recovered, and the suspect was taken into custody without further incident.

Emergency Hand Signal for Distress


About the Author

Toni K. McMorris is a native of Detroit, Michigan and attended Detroit Public Schools.  A graduate of Cass Tech, Performing Arts Curriculum, she earned an undergraduate degree in human resources, masters in health administration, and licensed in property and casualty, life, health, and disability insurance.  


Toni has lived in Nigeria, and Vancouver, British Columbia – where she pursued her love of creative writing. While in British Columbia, McMorris began writing poetry and the manuscript for her book, Good Secrets and Bad Secrets.  Although she is not an illustrator, she was able to draft several possibilities for a character to effectively narrate the content within the book. Ultimately, she decided a lizard and named her “Libby.” In 2011, Toni published, "Good Secrets and Bad Secrets with Libby the Lizard." Libby made her debut television appearance on local news in Detroit in 2012. 

 In July 2012, McMorris was invited to speak at the National Medical Association’s Annual Conference and Scientific Assembly to share her book and data she'd gathered.  Then, in 2013, Good Secrets and Bad Secrets with Libby the Lizard was animated by Brian Golden.  The 12-minute presentation ran for an entire year on public access television in Oakland, County Michigan.  


Over the next few years, McMorris collaborated with Inkster Preparatory Academy to create a reading campaign that would enhance literacy and protect children from harmful behaviors.  The book was the focal point of K-3rd grade lesson plans, concluding with Reading Night to showcase Libby with families and the community. Principal Shawn Hurt said, “Our reading scores in 2018 and 2019 increased tremendously in part because of Libby the Lizard.  We developed classroom and school expectations with students, who enjoyed learning with Libby the Lizard, and parental participation soared to over 92%.”.  


McMorris has plans to create an entire Libby the Lizard series of books and animations that continue to focus on child safety.

My Books
In the press
In The Press

Read our Detroit Free Press Feature, Here.

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