Missing teen saved by driver after using TikTok hand signal

·2-min read

A missing teenager in the US has been rescued after she used a hand signal that went viral on TikTok to show she was in danger.

The Laurel County Sheriff's Office in Kentucky said the 16-year-old was travelling in a silver Toyota when she put up her palm up before tucking in her thumb in and closing her fingers.

The gesture, which is known "to represent violence at home — I need help — domestic violence”, went viral online after the murder of Sarah Everard sparked a conversation about women's safety.

The gesture created to allow victims of domestic violence to ask silently for help. Source: Women's Funding Network
The gesture the teenager is believed to have used was created to allow victims of domestic violence to ask silently for help. Source: Women's Funding Network

A passing driver immediately recognised what the signal meant and noticed the teen appeared “to be in distress”.

He alerted authorities which led to the arrest James Herbert Brick, 61, of Cherokee, North Carolina, while he was driving near a Kentucky interstate on Thursday afternoon (local time).

In a statement, Sheriff John Root said the girl was discovered inside the car Brick was driving two days after she was reported missing by her parents. 

Silhouette of a male driver from behind. Source: Getty Images
The passing driver recognised the signal and alerted authorites. Source: Getty Images

She told officers she had travelled with the accused through North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio.

The gesture she used was launched by the US-based Women's Funding Network and the Canadian Women's Foundation at the beginning of the Covid pandemic to help address domestic violence during lockdowns.

Investigators also located a phone in Brick's possession that "allegedly portrayed a juvenile female in a sexual manner". 

Brick is facing charges of unlawful imprisonment and possession of material showing a sex performance by a minor over the age of 12 but under 18. 

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