16 year old rescued after using TikTok distress signal

A teenager has been rescued in Kentucky from her alleged abductor after using a distress signal she’d seen on TikTok.

Kentucky Police have arrested James Herbert Brick (61) after calls were made by drivers who saw the teenaged girl perform a distress signal they recognised from TikTok.

The 16-year-old girl was reported missing from her family in Asheville, North Carolina two days before she was rescued.

James Brick. Credit: Laurel County Sheriff’s Office

The performed signal is an outward-facing palm with fingers closed around a tucked thumb. It has been demonstrated by non-for-profit organisations and users of TikTok as a way for a person being abused to tell someone without alerting their abuser.

The Kentucky Police Department have heralded the hand gesture for saving the teenager. Deputy Gilbert Acciardo, of the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office, said, “That hand gesture was everything. Had that not been… transmitted by the young lady, had there not been someone out there that knew how to interpret what she was doing, then who knows.”

Furthermore, Kentucky police have been quick to acknowledge the signal’s potential, saying:

We think that motorists and law enforcement agencies nationwide should be aware of this and know what the signal means, and I think it can be quite useful in the future.

Illuminated by this report are the impact and potential use of social media platforms such as TikTok in spreading lifesaving information. As noted by Acciardo, without TikTok’s popularisation of this distress signal, “we might not have had a good resolution on this“.

According to Deputy Acciardo, the girl knew Brick as he lived close by and she initially went willingly with him before becoming scared. Brick reportedly took her to visit his relatives and left with her after realising she had been reported missing.

Brick has been arrested and charged with kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, and possession of matter of a sexual performance by a minor. The girl was taken to hospital and has since been reunited with her family in North Carolina.