The gesture the teenager is believed to have used was created to allow victims of domestic violence to ask silently for help – and gained publicity in the UK after the murder of Sarah Everard sparked conversations about women’s safety.
A missing 16-year-old girl has been found in the US after she used hand signals that went viral on TikTok to show a driver she was in danger.
The girl was inside a silver Toyota when a motorist in another vehicle saw her using the gesture that was created to help address a worldwide rise in domestic violence, Laurel County Sheriff’s Office in Kentucky said.
The driver called 911 after recognising what the hand signal meant and noticing that the teenager “appeared to be in distress”, the sheriff’s office added.
Police later arrested James Herbert Brick, 61, of Cherokee, North Carolina, while he was driving near a Kentucky interstate on Thursday afternoon.
The teenager found inside the car Brick was driving had been reported missing by her parents in Asheville, North Carolina, on Tuesday morning, Laurel County Sheriff John Root said in a statement.
The girl, who has not been named, told officers she had travelled with Brick through North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio.
The gesture which went viral on TikTok and across social media last year involves putting your palm up before tucking your thumb in and closing your fingers.
It was launched by the US-based Women’s Funding Network and the Canadian Women’s Foundation during the early days of the pandemic to help address a rise in domestic violence while lockdown measures were in place.
For example, it could allow a person to silently alert a family member, friend, or colleague during a video call or when answering the door.
Advice to use the gesture spread across the world with the help of social media.
The hand gesture was suggested to women as a way of getting help in the UK after the murder of Sarah Everard sparked a conversation about women’s safety.
In the case of the girl who used the gesture in the US, investigators also located a phone in Brick’s possession that “allegedly portrayed a juvenile female in a sexual manner,” Sheriff Root said.
Brick is facing charges of unlawful imprisonment and possession of material showing a sex performance by a minor over the age of 12 but under 18, according to the sheriff’s office.
He’s being held at the Laurel County Correctional Center on a $10,000 (£7,408) cash bond.