Your browser is not supported. For the best experience, you should upgrade to a modern browser with improved speed and security.

Kidnapped Teen's Rescue Thanks To Her Ingenuity and 911 Caller's Vigilance, Not to TikTok Hand Signal

The driver who alerted police to the 16-year-old girl's plight did not understand the hand signal popularized on TikTok but he could tell that she was in distress and needed help.

The rescue of a kidnapped 16-year-old girl in Kentucky last week is raising awareness about the importance of staying vigilant for signs of distress and taking action if you see them. While the story went viral after the teen's use of a hand signal that was popularized on TikTok was originally credited as alerting the driver who called the authorities, it turns out that he hadn't understood the gesture but he could tell that the girl needed help. “I didn’t recognize a gesture,” 50-year-old David Isaacs, the driver who called 911 explained in an interview this week. “She was mouthing ‘help me.’ She said ‘help me, help me’ twice. I think she even lip-synced ‘call 911.'... It looked like she had been crying."

The 16-year-old had been reported missing from Asheville, North Carolina on November 2. After she was rescued, the girl told authorities that she began trying to get the attention of drivers as she and the man who was later charged with kidnapping traveled south from Ohio two days later on November 4. She started signaling to other drivers in every way she could think of, including using the hand signal and mouthing "help me" and "call 911." Isaacs noticed the girl's distress and began to follow the car. In an interview this week, he recalled that he dropped back a few car lengths and then called for help.

During the 911 call, he told the dispatcher: "Yeah, I’ve been following this Toyota Corolla from Madison County, we just crossed into Laurel County exit 49. This female in the passenger side, brunette is motioning for help, call 911.” As he followed the car from a distance, keeping the teen in sight, he relayed details about mile markers, even as he started to worry that he was low on gas and wouldn't be able to stay close to the vehicle for much longer.

Isaacs told FOX56 in an interview this week that he did see her making the four finger hand signal but thought she was trying to indicate they were going to leave the interstate at Exit 41 and he advised the police accordingly. The kidnapper did get off the highway at Exit 41 where police were positioned; they pulled the car over and arrested the driver. "When we got off on the ramp, and they said they had the units there. I was like, thank goodness," Isaacs recalled.

Thanks to Isaacs' vigilance and quick response, police arrested 61-year-old James Herbert Brick, who allegedly had a sexually explicit photo of the teen on his phone; he has since been charged with kidnapping and possession of material showing a sex performance by a minor over the age of 12 but under age 18. Andrea Gunraj with the Canadian Women’s Foundation, the organization credited with launching the hand signal known as Signal for Help, says that while the hand signal is a useful tool, what's most important is noticing different signs of distress and taking action when you do.

"You might just see somebody be uncomfortable or look silenced or look upset," Gunraj observes. "Maybe hint at things but not be able to say, 'I’m being hurt right now,' or 'I’m scared right now,' but you can sense it." She adds that the tremendous response to this story and the hand signal itself, which was first developed during the COVID-19 pandemic as a way that someone on a video call could non-verbally indicate they needed help, has been heartening and that it reaffirms "the idea that we need to have something to help us make sure that people are safe.... What is so wonderful is seeing people respond to it, know it, share it, want to learn more."

Books For Kids & Adults About Safety and Abuse

Let's Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent, and Respect

Let's Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent, and Respect

Written by: Jayneen Sanders
Illustrated by: Sarah Jennings
Recommended Age: 4 - 7

It's important for kids to understand that bodies have boundaries, and that everyone has a right to their own personal space. Jayneen Sanders, an experienced early years educator, provides simple and familiar scenarios — from giving a hug to pushing to get to the front of a line — to illustrate how "body bubbles" surround everyone and how to figure out when and if it's okay to cross those boundaries. Throughout, she empowers kids to speak up if their body boundaries have been crossed. Notes at the end include suggestions for adults reading the book with kids to further the discussion, building an understanding of respect and consent that will serve them throughout their lives.

Buy:
Buy:
Amazon.ca
C$17.05 (CAD)
Amazon.co.uk
£5.95 (GBP)
Amazon.com.au
A$14.95 (AUD)
Amazon.com
$8.95 (USD)

The Big Bad Wolf in My House

The Big Bad Wolf in My House

Written by: Valérie Fontaine
Illustrated by: Nathalie Dion
Recommended Age: 5 - 9

In this stunning fable, a little girl meditates on the big bad wolf that her mother invited to stay: "He didn’t need to huff, or puff/ or blow the house down.../ The big bad wolf just walked in the door." Although the wolf seems kind at first, she can't help but notice his cold eyes. When her mother arrives home late one day, the wolf starts to yell — and it's not long before things get worse. The girl becomes an expert at trying to keep the peace, at concealing the bruises from when the wolf grabbed her arm, and at hiding her heart behind a wall of bricks. Finally, when mother and daughter escape to a shelter, the girl can finally feel safe again. Valérie Fontaine and Nathalie Dion have created a powerful story, tinged with hope for the future, that masterfully addresses the experiences of children who survive violence in the home.

Buy:
Buy:
Amazon.ca
C$18.95 (CAD)
Amazon.co.uk
£18.16 (GBP)
Amazon.com.au
A$45.67 (AUD)
Amazon.com
$14.68 (USD)

Consent (for Kids!)

Boundaries, Respect, and Being in Charge of YOU

Consent (for Kids!)

Boundaries, Respect, and Being in Charge of YOU

Written by: Rachel Brian
Illustrated by: Rachel Brian
Recommended Age: 6 - 10

It's easier than you think to explain concepts of consent and bodily autonomy to kids! In this funny, colorful, and insightful book from Rachel Brian, co-creator of the "Tea Consent" viral video, kids will learn about what boundaries are, how to set them, and what to do if someone else makes them feel uncomfortable. They'll also learn to examine their own actions and recognize how they may accidentally breach someone else's boundaries — and how they can learn to practice consent themselves. After all, as Brian points out: "CONSENT TAKES PRACTICE. The more that people around you practice consent, the more natural it is for everyone." This appealing and empowering introduction to consent will help raise a generation to respect themselves... and others.

Buy:
Buy:
Amazon.ca
C$20.99 (CAD)
Amazon.co.uk
£17.86 (GBP)
Amazon.com.au
A$30.56 (AUD)
Amazon.com
$9.99 (USD)

Once You Know This

Once You Know This

Written by: Emily Blejwas
Recommended Age: 10 - 13

Eleven-year-old Brittany wants a better life, but has no idea how to get there. Her mother's boyfriend is physically abusive and forbids her from working, leaving the family desperately short of money. At the same time, Brittany's beloved great-grandmother has dementia and is rapidly declining. School provides Brittany with an escape into reading and writing, a friend to support her, and a teacher who introduces the idea of "plan B." And when Brittany realizes there may be someone they can reach out to for support, maybe she and her family can find the courage to leave Jack's abuse behind. While this book takes an unflinching look at serious issues including abuse and poverty, its ultimate resolution is hopeful, reminding readers that a better life is worth reaching for.

Buy:
Buy:
Amazon.ca
C$43.28 (CAD)
Amazon.co.uk
£33.84 (GBP)
Amazon.com.au
A$15.82 (AUD)
Amazon.com
$13.09 (USD)

Fighting Words

Fighting Words

Recommended Age: 10 - 13

10-year-old Della knows that two things will never change: her own big mouth, and the protection of her 16-year-old sister Suki. Suki took care of her when her mother was jailed, and when her mother's boyfriend started sexually abusing Della, it was Suki who helped her escape. Now they're staying with a foster mother, Francine, and Della is starting to feel safe — but Suki has her sights set on obtaining independence, and custody of Della, at age 18. When Suki learns that won't be possible, her mental health begins to unravel, and Della realizes that it's time for her to use her "big mouth" to break the stigma about childhood sexual abuse and make people take notice. Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, the Newbery Honor-winning author of The War That Saved My Life, tells Della's story with humor, poignancy, and power.

Buy:
Buy:
Amazon.ca
C$11.00 (CAD)
Amazon.co.uk
£7.99 (GBP)
Amazon.com.au
A$23.65 (AUD)
Amazon.com
$7.99 (USD)

The Sexual Trauma Workbook for Teen Girls: A Guide to Recovery from Sexual Assault and Abuse

The Sexual Trauma Workbook for Teen Girls: A Guide to Recovery from Sexual Assault and Abuse

Recommended Age: 13 and up

Girls who have survived sexual abuse or trauma may feel like they can never recover — but it is possible to find your voice, move past your trauma, and discover your inner strength and resilience. In this book from the Instant Help Solutions series, girls will read stories from other teen survivors and learn proven effective strategies to help them manage the emotions that can arise after these experiences. While this book is realistic about the challenges facing survivors, it is also encouraging and optimistic, reassuring readers that they will find a way to move forward again.

Buy:
Buy:
Amazon.ca
C$25.61 (CAD)
Amazon.co.uk
£11.53 (GBP)
Amazon.com.au
A$27.43 (AUD)
Amazon.com
$18.95 (USD)

If You Find Me

If You Find Me

Written by: Emily Murdoch
Recommended Age: 14 and up

15-year-old Carey has lived in a broken-down camper as long as she can remember, where she cares for her younger sister Jenessa and her mother, whose untreated bipolar disorder and addiction to meth make her erratic and neglectful. And one day, instead of her mother coming home, two strangers arrive to take them to live with Carey's father instead. This new home is overwhelming to Casey, who's forced to face the reality of why her mother abducted her — and confess the secret that haunts both her and her sister. This painful story that reveals the true horrors of uncontrolled addiction and sexual abuse is still tinged with hope for a better future.

Buy:
Buy:
Amazon.ca
C$17.50 (CAD)
Amazon.co.uk
£12.78 (GBP)
Amazon.com.au
A$19.14 (AUD)
Amazon.com
$11.72 (USD)

Dime

Dime

Written by: E. R. Frank
Recommended Age: 15 and up

Dime has spent years lost in New Jersey's foster care system, and all she wants is someone who really cares about her. And when Daddy finds her, it seems like just what she was hoping for: a man who loves her, and two "wifeys" to be her friends. But before she knows what's happening, Daddy is pushing her into the sex trade to earn her keep... and when he brings home another new "wifey," Dime realizes that Daddy never cared about her the way she thought he did. But how can she leave when she isn't sure she deserves better — and even if she gets the strength to go, will Daddy let her? This powerful, heartbreaking look into the realities of teen prostitution and sex trafficking is a reminder of the humanity behind the cautionary tales.

Buy:
Buy:
Amazon.ca
C$17.99 (CAD)
Amazon.co.uk
£15.72 (GBP)
Amazon.com.au
A$28.35 (AUD)
Amazon.com
$12.65 (USD)

Why Does He Do That?

Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

Why Does He Do That?

Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

Written by: Lundy Bancroft
Recommended Age: 16 and up

"He doesn't mean to hurt me — he just loses control." "He can be sweet and gentle." "He's scared me a few times, but he never hurts the children — he's a great father..." Women in abusive relationships tell themselves these things every day. Now they can see inside the minds of angry and controlling men — and change their own lives. In this groundbreaking book, Lundy Bancroft, a counselor who specializes in working with abusive men, uses his thirty years of experience to break down the early warning signs of abuse, ten abusive personality types, what you can fix and what you can't fix in a relationship, and how to get out of an abusive relationship safely. This powerful book is an invaluable resource to help women better understand the thinking of abusive men, recognize when they are being controlled or devalued, and find ways to get free of an abusive relationship.

Buy:
Buy:
Amazon.ca
C$24.00 (CAD)
Amazon.co.uk
£13.40 (GBP)
Amazon.com.au
A$23.69 (AUD)
Amazon.com
$9.34 (USD)

Body Safety Education

A Parents' Guide to Protecting Kids from Sexual Abuse

Body Safety Education

A Parents' Guide to Protecting Kids from Sexual Abuse

Written by: Jayneen Sanders

This book is a step-by-step guide to help parents and educators keep kids safe from sexual abuse! With Body Safety Education, adults who live or work with children will learn how to teach them about important concepts like bodily autonomy, privacy, and inappropriate touch. They'll also learn how to spot signs of problems, like how an adult may try to groom a child. At the same time, kids are empowered by learning that "I am the boss of me," setting them up for ongoing assertiveness and confidence! With age appropriate language and simple, easily conveyed lessons, this book helps give children a thorough grounding in keep their bodies safe.

Buy:
Buy:
Amazon.ca
C$18.88 (CAD)
Amazon.co.uk
£14.31 (GBP)
Amazon.com.au
A$37.15 (AUD)
Amazon.com
$13.16 (USD)

Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not For Sale - A Memoir

Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not For Sale - A Memoir

Written by: Rachel Lloyd
Recommended Age: Adults

As a teenager, Rachel Lloyd became a victim of sex exploitation and trafficking — and through a combination of luck and sheer force of will, she managed to escape. But what about the girls she left behind — and the girls who were still to come? Lloyd founded GEMS, New York City's Girls Education and Mentoring Service, a program dedicated to helping girls find the courage and confidence to escape "the life." She also fought for the Safe Harbor for Exploited Youth Act, which made New York the first state that will not prosecute sexually exploited minors. In this unflinching memoir, Lloyd relates the story of how she and so many other girls get sucked into the sex trade, and why we all need to recognize that girls and women on the street are just like us.

Buy:
Buy:
Amazon.ca
C$21.99 (CAD)
Amazon.co.uk
£8.99 (GBP)
Amazon.com.au
A$24.76 (AUD)
Amazon.com
$13.20 (USD)

You May Also Like

Help keep A Mighty Girl growing in the years ahead!

If you discover books or other resources via this post that you would like to purchase, please use the "Buy at Amazon" and other links found on every A Mighty Girl product page. By doing so, at no added cost to you, you help to support the site and allow us to continue providing you with wonderful girl-empowering resources. We appreciate your support!