A missing teenager was rescued after a 911 caller reported she used hand gestures that indicate domestic violence.
The symbols have grown popular on TikTok since reports emerged of increasing rates of domestic abuse during the pandemic.
The 61-year-old man found with the teenager was arrested for unlawful imprisonment and possession of child pornography.
A missing North Carolina teen was reportedly rescued after she used a viral TikTok hand gesture to indicate she was in danger and needed help.
The 16-year-old was found in Kentucky on Thursday after a 911 caller reported that a female passenger riding in the car ahead of them was using the signals, Fox 8 Cleveland reported. According to the Laurel County Sheriff's Office, investigators on the scene found the driver, 61-year-old Herbert Brick, in possession of a photo of the teen engaged in sexual acts.
The teen was first reported missing by her parents in Asheville, North Carolina, on Tuesday, according to the report. Investigators discovered that Brick had driven with the girl to Ohio, though promptly left when relatives of Brick expressed concern about her age and discovered she had been reported missing.
Brick is currently at the Laurel County Correctional Center, where he was arrested for unlawful imprisonment and posession of content showing sexual activity by a minor, Fox8 reported.
The signals - a mix of three hand gestures that convey "violence at home," "I need help," and "domestic violence" - have spread on TikTok as a means to help victims of abuse. In one popular video, which has more than 3.5 million views and 130,000 shares, a woman demonstrates how to subtly use the signals while on a video call with a friend.
Such posts first began to circulate in June 2020 in tandem with reports that found rates of domestic violence increased globally due to coronavirus lockdowns that left many victims trapped inside with their abusers. According to the United Nations, cases of domestic abuse increased by upwards of 20% during lockdowns, part of a disturbing trend the organization called a "shadow pandemic."
In the US, the heightened rate of abuse is increasingly leading to death. Last week, Iowa reported that 17 people died at the hands of domestic violence in 2021, the highest rate the state has reported since 2010, according to Axios.
On TikTok, users have continued to share public service posts in the past year showing how to use the signals, raising awareness that is proving vital to helping victims like the North Carolina teenager.
"I hadn't seen this before... the 'violence at home' signal," wrote one TikTok user in September. "Would only work if we all know about it. It's so important that you watch and share!"
Read the original article on Business Insider