A missing teenage girl was rescued in the US after using a hand gesture that signals distress or domestic violence to capture the attention of a passing driver.
The 16-year-old was spotted travelling inside a silver Toyota near London, Kentucky, about 150 miles south-east of Louisville, on 4 November.
A driver called police after noticing “a female passenger in the vehicle making hand gestures that are known on the social media platform TikTok to represent violence at home – I need help – domestic violence,” the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on 6 November.
The caller noted that the girl “appeared to be in distress” and was being driven by an older male.
Laurel sheriff’s investigators positioned themselves to watch for the passing Toyota and intercepted the vehicle as it exited the highway. Deputies conducted a traffic stop and a subsequent investigation revealed the teenager had been reported missing by her parents days earlier.
Police say the teenager told investigators that she traveled with the man through North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio. Authorities allege she had been attempting to get motorists attention to call 911.
Following the police stop, James Herbert Brick, 61, was arrested at the scene and charged with unlawful imprisonment, the sherrif’s office said. He remains in custody.
The gesture reportedly used by the teenager to signal violence or distress is believed to have been first introduced by the Canadian Women’s Foundation last year. It has been adopted by women around the world who need to discreetly ask for help, or show they are in distress.
The gesture is a hand up, palm out, with the thumb tucked, then folding the fingers down.