A 16-year-old North Carolina teenager was rescued from her abductor after using a distress signal she learned from TikTok.
The teenager, who was reported missing last week, was spotted by a motorist in Kentucky who recognized the hand gesture, which the teen had learned from watching TikTok and essentially means “I need help — domestic violence.”
The motorist called 911 and followed the vehicle for 7 miles before police were able to pull the car over and rescue the teen whose abductor had traveled all the way to Ohio and back with her.
The hand signal the teen used involves holding your palm outward toward onlookers, pulling the thumb into the palm, and folding the fingers down over the thumb:
This hand gesture was originally created by the Canadian Women’s Foundation near the start of the pandemic as a way for people who were trapped at home in violent situations during the lockdowns to get much-needed help. Though it’s been popularized on TikTok, it can be used in a variety of situations, from video calls to in-person, much as this young woman used it.
Some critics argue its increasing popularity makes it less effective as more people will know what it means. The Canadian Women’s Foundation argues that it’s not “something that’s going to save the day,” but it does offer a way for someone in need to signal that they are in distress.
Clearly it worked for this teenager, so it’s worthwhile to know.
For all the flak it’s received, TikTok definitely came through for this young woman and has hopefully been instrumental in helping others get assistance in escaping violent or dangerous environments.
The perpetrator, James Herbert Brick, 61, was arrested and charged with unlawful imprisonment. He remains in custody, according to the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office.