A missing 16-year-old girl from North Carolina, USA, was found last week after a driver spotted her in the back of a silver Toyota passenger car near New London. The driver noted that the young girl “appeared to be in distress”, and recognised a hand signal she was making, popularised on TikTok, used to indicate “violence at home — I need help — domestic violence.”
The driver reported the vehicle to 911, after which local authorities were dispatched to investigate. After intercepting the South-bound vehicle near a Kentucky interstate border, they arrested the driver, 61-year-old James Herbert Brick.
The teenager within the vehicle was reported missing by her parents in Asheville on Tuesday morning. According to a statement from the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office, she told authorities that she had been taken by Brick through North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio, where he had relatives.
Brick had apparently left Ohio after his relatives there realised that the girl he was travelling with was both a minor and a reported missing person, which was when the teenager began trying to get motorists’ attention to call 911, using the gesture made viral through TikTok.
Brick is charged with first-degree unlawful imprisonment, as well as possession of material showing a sex performance of a minor over the age of 12 but under age 18. Investigators found a cellphone in Brick’s possession with said illicit material on it.
According to NBC, Brick is currently being held at the Laurel County Correctional Center, with his bond posted at $10,000 (R152,000).
The hand sign used by the teen was first introduced by the Canadian Womens’ Foundation, and later began making the rounds on TikTok as a way for those at risk of violence at home to signal for help in a discreet manner. The signal is a held-up hand with a tucked thumb, then folding fingers down over it.