A teenager from North Carolina, who was reported missing by her parents, used the hand signal for domestic violence that she picked up on TikTok to tell other people that she was in danger.
According to the police, the unnamed 16-year-old girl was sitting at the passenger side of her abductor's car, where she was gesturing to other drivers for help. She used a familiar sign among TikTok users that represented domestic violence and also relayed, "I need help." Her abductor was a 61-year-old man whose relationship to the victim was not divulged.
Nevertheless, the hand signal for domestic violence sounded off the alarm that led to the rescue of the teenager, thanks to the driver who recognized it and called 911. As soon as the call was made, Laurel County officers were dispatched to the highway to enforce traffic stops and check all cars driving by for a teenage passenger.
The arrest of James Herbert Brick
Following hours of check on the highway, the police were able to arrest and charge James Herbert Brick, from Cherokee, North Carolina, with unlawful imprisonment. According to CNET, Brick also had contents on his phone that "portrayed a girl in a sexual manner," so they charged him with "possession of matter sex performance by a minor" as well.
The police learned that the rescued teenager was a missing juvenile who had "got on" with Brick to North Carolina during the investigations. They then traveled to Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio, where the abductor had relatives. However, when his relatives realized that she was a minor and likely had a missing person's report, Brick decided to leave immediately and traveled southbound with his victim.
According to People, Brick has been detained at the Laurel County Correctional Center since his arrest and is awaiting his court date. A 10,000 cash bond has been issued for his temporary release, but it's still unclear if he has taken on the services of a private lawyer or has the means to pay for his bail.
The Signal for Help
Meanwhile, the teenager said that she knew about the hand gesture from watching TikTok videos. According to NBC News, the Canadian Women's Foundation launched this hand signal for domestic violence in November 2020 amid several victims who were forced to stay home with their aggressors because of the pandemic lockdowns. It has subsequently been adopted on a global scale as a way for victims of domestic violence to ask for help without alarming their aggressors, and it became popular on TikTok.
"We don't know how long, coming down the interstate from Ohio, that she had been doing this to other motorists hoping that they would notice that she was in distress," Laurel County Sheriff's Deputy Gilbert Acciardo said. "But finally, someone did recognize it."
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