A 16-year-old girl who had been missing for several days was rescued Thursday when she caught the attention of a driver by using hand gestures to signal she was in distress, a Kentucky sheriff’s office said.

According to the Laurel County Sheriff’s Department in Kentucky, James Herbert Brick, 61, of Cherokee, North Carolina was taken into custody Thursday for unlawful imprisonment. He was driving along an interstate highway with a missing teen. According to the sheriff’s office, he also had sexual images of teenagers on his cell phone.

The hand gestures used by the teen have been popularized on TikTok and “represent violence at home – I need help – domestic violence,” the sheriff’s office said. After recognizing Brick’s hand signals, a witness driving alongside Brick’s Toyota phoned 911 and informed dispatchers that Brick appeared to have been in distress. 

Brick was pulled over by deputies at the exit of the interstate. They discovered that Brick had been missing since Tuesday, when her parents were in Asheville.

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According to the teenager, she had traveled with Brick through North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio, the sheriff’s department release says.

The department did not share what sign the teen used, but advocates have previously advised people in distress to use hand signals to discreetly ask for help.

The Canadian Women’s Foundation says an international, universal signal for help in a case of domestic violence or other distress can be made with one hand. To “trap” your thumb, face your thumb forward. Next, place your fingers on the thumb of your thumb.

According to the foundation, this sign doesn’t necessarily indicate that you should immediately call authorities, it simply indicates “reach me safely”.

The sign has been shared on social media platforms including TikTok, particularly as research has shown the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns have led to an increase in domestic violence cases.

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It is recommended that you use your hand signal on any web camera or similar situation where it’s not possible to freely talk about danger or seek help.

The Signal for Help can be used to help people at times. Some individuals are not able to make video phone calls. You can find resources, programs, and services below to help you in unsafe situations at home, The Canadian Women’s Foundation says.

Source: USAToday.com

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