Police in Kentucky were able to locate a missing North Carolina girl last week after a 911 caller was able to identify that the girl was signaling for help.
According to the Laurel County Sheriff's Office, police received a call last Thursday from a person who had noticed a girl in the car in front of them appeared to be in distress.
The sheriff's office says that the witness called 911 after noticing the girl was making a hand gesture popularized on TikTok and other social media platforms to indicate that she was in danger of domestic violence.
The hand gesture starts with the hand up, the palm out, and the thumb tucked in. The person in trouble then folds four fingers over the thumb to indicate that they need help.
The witness called 911, and the Laurel County Sheriff's office sent deputies to track down the silver Toyota the girl was riding in. Deputies pulled the car over at the intersection of I-75 and Kentucky state route 80 in the town of London.
In the car, deputies found a 16-year-old girl who had been reported missing from Asheville, North Carolina, two days prior. She told deputies that she had "gotten with" the driver, James Herbert Brick, who had taken her through North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and into Ohio, where Brick had relatives.
The sheriff's office said that once Brick's relatives realized the girl was underage and had been reported missing, he fled the state of Ohio. That's when the girl began signaling to motorists passing by.
After his arrest, Brick was charged with first-degree unlawful imprisonment and possession of a matter of sex performance by a minor (over 12 but under 18).
The Office of Family Safety here in Nashville says using discrete signals like this one is important for victims who are trying to escape.
"It's such an important tool to let someone know you're in trouble, especially when being monitored," said Becky Bullard with the Office of Family Safety. "It could come in hand signals, we've also seen people use keywords that friends and family know means they're in trouble."
Several hotlines can also be reached by texting or reaching out through a web chat. For more information on the Office of Family Safety, click here.
If you are someone you know is in need of domestic violence help, call 1-800-334-4628 or text 615-983-5170 to reach the YWCA's 24-hour Crisis and Support helpline. To reach the Tennessee Domestic Violence helpline, call 1-800-356-6767.
For the National Human Trafficking hotline, call 1-888-373-7888 or text "HELP" or "INFO" to 233733.