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Hand signal from TikTok video helps save missing teen girl in Kentucky, what San Diego advocates say

According to the FBI, San Diego is ranked 13th among the worst regions for human trafficking and there are about 8,000 victims each year.

SAN DIEGO — A 16-year-old girl was returned home safely last week after she used a hand signal popularized on TikTok to let people know she needed help.

The girl’s parents reported her missing from Asheville, North Carolina Nov. 2 and thankfully, she was rescued in Kentucky two days later.

CBS 8's LaMonica Peters talked to advocates in San Diego about the hand signal helping to save lives.

This teenaged girl said she used a hand signal over and over again until someone recognized that she was in danger. She said she learned about it from Tik Tok videos that have been seen all over the world.

Sixty-one-year-old James Herbert Brick of Cherokee, NC is behind bars after Laurel County Sheriffs in Kentucky received a tip from another driver. The driver recognized the 16-year-old’s handle signal as a sign of trouble and followed the car on Interstate 75 until police could arrive.

“It was really popularized during the lockdown. So, it’s open palm, tuck your thumb, then cover with your fingers,” said Allison Johnson, Clinical Manager for the Center for Community Solutions in San Diego. 

Sheriffs say the teen was acquainted with Brick and she willingly went with him but then became afraid. The Canadian Women’s Foundation is being credited with creating the hand signal. Now that it’s gone viral on social media platform TikTok, advocates say it could be a game-changer.

“It is amazing. Amazing and I’m so happy that she was safe, by being so smart and using this as a way to ask for help,” said Marisa Ugarte, Executive Director of the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition

According to the FBI, San Diego is ranked 13th among the worst regions for human trafficking and there are about 8,000 victims each year.

“I think it really reminds us to be aware of our surroundings to be looking people in the eye when we travel about and to really follow up if we see something that seems odd,” Johnson said. 

Both Johnson and Ugarte also warned that the hand signal should only be used in a real emergency and if calling the police right away isn’t the safest option, gather as much information as you can.

Brick was charged with unlawful imprisonment, possession of child pornography and will appear in court on Tuesday.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, support is out there. Reach out to the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

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