The Story Of How A Viral TikTok Trend Saved An Abducted Girl's Life

Every day, social media becomes a larger, borderline inescapable part of life. From business transactions to new laws to the zany or even controversial actions of content creators, there's bound to be a story on the news on any given day involving Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, or any of the other myriad social media platforms. 

But this case was different. In a highly unusual turn of events, this time, TikTok made the news for saving a girl's life. 


  • An Older Man Was Driving A Teen Girl Across Multiple States

    On November 4, 2021, 61-year-old James Herbert Brick was driving through Kentucky with a young girl in the passenger seat. The two had already traveled through North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio together, even stopping along the way to visit the man’s family.

    With this in mind, perhaps outsiders would guess she was his granddaughter or some other sort or relative. But she wasn’t. She was a captive.

  • She Had Actually Been A Missing Person For Two Days

    The 16-year-old girl, whose name has not been released by the police (likely due to her status as a minor), had actually been reported missing from Asheville, NC, a mere two days earlier by her family. She was acquainted with Brick, but the two were unrelated. He had kidnapped her and transported her across state lines.

    At first, he brought her to his family in Ohio. But as soon as they realized his companion was a minor, and a missing one at that, he took off again. It was at this point that the girl began to take action. 

  • Thanks To A Gesture She Learned On TikTok, She Got Someone's Attention

    Traveling south from Ohio, she began to gesture out the windows of the car to passersby on the road. It's possible she knew that simply screaming, panicking, or struggling would anger her captor, and attempting to escape out of a car speeding down the freeway would only risk her own safety. 

    So, instead, she used a harmless-looking hand gesture she learned from the growing social media platform, TikTok. Brick let her continue, not knowing the gesture's meaning. It appeared she was simply waving or stretching, and not in distress. What he didn’t know was that she was actually signaling for help.

  • This TikTok Signal Got Her The Help She Needed
    Video: YouTube

    This TikTok Signal Got Her The Help She Needed

    The signal, popularized on TikTok, conists of holding up the hand as if to wave, then slowly and deliberately tucking the thumb into the palm and folding one's fingers over it to form a fist. 

    Hand up, thumb in, fingers down. It's a calm, quiet, and simple way to get someone's attention without raising suspicion or causing a scene.

    The girl started making this gesture to passing cars until someone finally noticed. 

  • Someone Who Saw The Signal Called The Police

    The police report that it's unclear how many people saw the girl's signal before someone finally called for help. But TikTok has over a billion users, and that gesture had gone viral. It may have been only a matter of time before someone familiar with it came by. 

    And come by they did. Someone following Brick's vehicle spotted the signal and called 911, explaining that they thought the girl was in trouble. The caller then followed Brick, updating the dispatcher on his movements until law enforcement could arrive.

    The police themselves were unaware of the gesture or its meaning, but decided to pull the car over to investigate. That's when she was finally rescued. 

  • She Was Rescued From Her Kidnapper, Who May Have Had Darker Intentions

    The girl informed the police of what she had endured over the past two days. The police later testified that "she was physically shaking, crying,” upon being found, and that Brick had threatened to execute her dog if she attempted to escape. Thankfully, she was at last taken to safety. After successfully rescuing the girl, police then turned their attention to Brick. At this point, they discovered another twist in the story.

    As it turns out, not only had Brick unlawfully transported this minor across state lines against her will, but he was also in possession of a phone with images of an underage girl posing "in a sexual manner." With this new information, Brick was arrested on two felony charges - one for unlawful imprisonment and another for the content on his phone.