A teenager who went missing in the US has been found after she used hand signals that went viral on TikTok to show she was in danger.
The girl had been reported missing by her parents in North Carolina on Tuesday morning, and was spotted inside a car in Kentucky two days later.
The 16-year-old used the gesture designed to help domestic abuse victims ask for help to alert a passing driver.
Authorities say they arrested a 61-year-old man.
A driver called police after noticing “a female passenger in the vehicle making hand gestures that are known on the social media platform TikTok to represent violence at home – I need help – domestic violence,” the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
Laurel Sheriff’s investigators rescue 16 year old missing North Carolina girl, and arrest subject who had her :
Posted by Laurel County Sheriff’s Office on Friday, November 5, 2021
The caller noted that the girl “appeared to be in distress” and was being driven by an older male.
The girl, who has not been named, told officers she had travelled through North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio.
Police later arrested James Herbert Brick, 61, of Cherokee, North Carolina, while he was driving near a Kentucky interstate on Thursday afternoon.
Signal for Help
The hand gesture is a one-handed sign someone can use when in distress, according to the Canadian Women’s Foundation.
The victim holds up their hand with their palm facing out, then tucks their thumb into their hand before closing their fingers on top of the thumb.
The campaign, called the “signal for help”, spread across social media in 2020 during the initial pandemic lockdowns, in an attempt to address a rise in domestic violence.
The idea was a way for domestic abuse victims to seek help using a non-verbal cue.
Videos demonstrating the signs also gained momentum in the UK in the aftermath of the murder of Sarah Everard, which sparked a debate over women’s safety.