The 16-year-old girl, who had been missing for several days, was rescued Thursday as she drew the driver’s attention with a hand gesture to express that she was in distress, the Kentucky sheriff’s office said.
Laurel County, Kentucky Sheriff’s Department said 61-year-old James Herbert Brick of Cheroke in North Carolina was arrested Thursday afternoon for “illegal detention” after he was pulled off an interstate state with a missing teenager in the back seat. The sheriff’s office also said there were sexual images of the teenager on her phone.
The hand gestures used by teens have been popularized at TikTok and “represent violence at home – I need help – domestic violence,” the sheriff’s office said. An eyewitness driving Brick behind Toyota called the emergency number after recognizing the hand signals and told senders that the teenager appeared to be “in distress.”
MPs waited for the Interstate exit at the exit and pulled Brick to a traffic stop where they found out his parents had reported the teenage passenger missing Tuesday in Asheville, North Carolina.
From our editor to your inbox: Editor-in-Chief Nicole Carroll takes you behind the scenes of the newsroom in this weekly newsletter.
According to the teenager, he had traveled with Brick through North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio, the sheriff’s department bulletin says.
The department did not tell you what sign the teenager was using, but lawyers have previously advised those in need to use hand signals to ask for help unobtrusively.
The Canadian Women’s Foundation says an international, universal signal for help in the case of domestic violence or other anxiety can be done with one hand. Point your palm forward with your thumb pushed in and then close your other fingers over your thumb to hold it in place.
The sign does not necessarily mean you need to call the authorities immediately, the foundation points out, but rather it shows, “contact me safely.”
The sign has been distributed on social media platforms, including TikTok, in particular research has shown coronavirus pandemics and closures have led to an increase in cases of domestic violence.
TikTok trends:What is gentle parenting and why does it make waves?
People are encouraged to use the hand signal unobtrusively on webcams or in other situations where they are not free to talk about a dangerous situation or call for help.
“Signal for Help is a tool that can sometimes help some people. Some people don’t have the ability to make video calls. Below you will find other resources, services and programs that can be helpful in a dangerous situation at home,” says the Canadian Women’s Foundation.