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A missing teenager from Asheville, N.C. was saved after using a hand signal she learned on TikTok to alert to others that she was in need of help.
The 16-year-old girl was flashing a distress signal while driving through Kentucky with her alleged kidnapper, according to The Washington Post. The "signal for help" was created by the Women's Funding Network in 2020 and entails folding your thumb over your palm and then making a fist. The hand motion has since moved over to TikTok, where it is taught so that people have a subtle, safe way to express to others that they are in danger.
You can see an example of one of the many posts teaching the crucial hand gesture below:
Another driver recognized the message while traveling along Interstate 75 in Laurel County, Ky. and alerted police.
WKYT, a local Kentucky news outlet, has since obtained audio from the 911 call. “We’re just crossing into Laurel County, Exit 49, this female in the passenger side, brunette, motioned for help, call 911," the man told emergency responders. He remained on the line until police were able to intercept the car and rescue the teen.
She has since been returned to her parents in North Carolina. The driver she was with — 61-year-old James Herbert Brick — was arrested for unlawful imprisonment and possession of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor.
An additional charge of kidnapping was leveled against Brick during a court hearing today (Nov. 9), according to WKYT. The publication added that Brick reportedly tried to delete sexual photos of the minor from his phone. He is currently in jail and is being held on a $50,000 bond.
The teen was first reported missing on Tuesday (Nov. 2), according to Insider. She reportedly traveled with Brick to his relatives' home in Ohio. However, the pair are alleged to have left after his family realized she had been reported missing. She was rescued during their return trip.
Deputy Gilbert Acciardo of the Laurel County's Sheriff's Office admitted that the department was not familiar with the hand signal prior to the 911 call. However, he told WHAS that he hopes it will now become a universally recognized symbol.
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