After using a TikTok hand signal, a missing girl is found! Power of Social Media

On Thursday, a girl reported missing from Asheville, North Carolina, and in distress in the passenger seat of a car traveling through Kentucky appeared to be waving to passing motorists through the window.

However, someone in a neighboring automobile recognized the TikTok signal and knew it wasn’t a normal wave.

According to the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office, the girl, 16, was utilizing a new distress signal, tucking her thumb into her palm before locking her fingers over it. The Canadian Women’s Foundation established the signal for people to warn that they are at risk of abuse and need aid, and it has mostly spread through TikTok in the last year.

The individual who noticed the signal dialled 911, expressing concern that the girl was in danger since she was making the hand gesture. Despite the fact that the dispatcher and cops had never heard of the signal, sheriff’s deputies pulled the car over to investigate and discovered that the girl’s parents had reported her missing two days before.

James Herbert Brick, 61, of Cherokee, N.C., was detained and charged with unlawful confinement by sheriff’s officers. Mr Brick, who possessed pornographic photographs of a child on his phone, is also facing a child pornography charge, according to the sheriff’s office.

According to Gilbert Acciardo, public affairs officer for the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office, the girl, and Mr. Brick are “acquaintances,” but not related. Investigators learned that the girl had traveled with Mr. Brick through North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio, where he had relatives. After learning that the girl was a juvenile and that her family had reported her missing, he fled the home. As they drove south from Ohio, she said she began trying to grab motorists’ attention.

Officer Acciardo said it was unclear how many individuals witnessed the girl’s hand signal. The girl made the signal toward the cops when they stopped the automobile over, he said.

Here is the video:

He stated, “I don’t think any of us recognised what that meant.” “But we do now,” says the narrator.

According to Officer Acciardo, Mr Brick believed she was simply waving at other cars and didn’t try to stop her. He applauded the girl for making the gesture, which he said could be a beneficial tool for victims if everyone knew about it.

“In the 48 years I’ve been a patrol officer, this is probably the nicest thing that’s come along,” he added.

Since April 2020, organisations such as the World Bank and the Women’s Funding Network have pushed the signal, which has been watched by millions of people on TikTok and YouTube. It started as a Covid-era lifeline for women in abusive situations, meant to be used during video chats to alert others to check upon them.

The Canadian Women’s Foundation recommends that anyone who sees the signal not immediately notify the authorities but instead reach out to the person who used it as safely as possible. Because the signal has no equivalent in American Sign Language, it relies on general awareness to function.

In an interview on Monday, Andrea Gunraj, vice president of public engagement at the Canadian Women’s Foundation, said, “It’s a relief to hear that someone was able to use the signal in a very dangerous scenario and that somebody knew how to respond.”

She explained that when the foundation’s executives were deciding on the signal, they chose one that was simple to implement and visible on a video conference.

 

While the fact that the signal was becoming more widely known as positive, Ms. Gunraj stated that there was still more outreach and public education to be done.

“We’re very conscious that for every one of these cases that makes the news, there are hundreds more that never make the news and are shrouded in secrecy because they happen behind closed doors,” Ms. Gunraj said

In an interview on Monday, Angeline Hartmann, a spokesperson for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said it was amazing to realize “how many things went well in this scenario” surrounding the girl’s rescue in Kentucky.

Ms. Hartmann stated, “We always emphasize it only takes one person to bring a missing child home.” “You never know when you’re going to be that one person, and you never know when you’re going to be that one person.” In this situation, she gave a signal, the other person noticed, and a call was placed.”