Viral TikTok hand gesture signaling domestic violence leads to rescue of missing teen
Did a popular TikTok trend just potentially save a teen girl’s life?
A missing 16-year-old from North Carolina was found in Kentucky on Thursday and the adult man she was with has been arrested and charged with unlawful imprisonment.
The teen was found thanks to a 911 caller who was familiar with a hand gesture that went viral on TikTok, according to Fox 8 Cleveland.
The Laurel County Sheriff’s Office says that a driver called police to report that they had just passed by a vehicle in which a young passenger was making hand signals which indicated that they needed help due to “domestic violence” or “violence at home.”
According to NBC News, the hand signal was “first introduced” last year by the Canadian Women’s Foundation. The gesture is made by holding up your hand to a person you’re trying to alert, tucking your thumb into your palm, and then closing your fingers.
However, the social video platform TikTok really helped spread awareness of the hand gesture.
For example, Business Insider points to a single video where the hand gesture is demonstrated that has more than three and a half million views on TikTok.
With the help of the 911 caller, police pulled the vehicle over and found the teenage girl, whose parents reported her missing on Tuesday. The driver, identified as James Herbert Brick, had been traveling with the teenager from North Carolina to Ohio to where he was apprehended in Kentucky. According to police, the girl had attempted to alert passerbys while in Brick’s vehicle.
Kentucky police are now trying to spread awareness of the hand gesture in an effort to aide other victims of domestic violence as well.
Along with the unlawful imprisonment charge, Brick was also changed with possession of matter showing sex performances by a minor. Upon pulling Brick over, police found a photo portraying a juvenile female in a sexual manner on his phone.
It seems the situation could have gone from bad to worse had it not been for that TikTok-watching 911 caller.