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The Real Problem With That IKEA Trafficking Story

When I hopped on Facebook yesterday, one of the first things I saw in my newsfeed was a viral post from a Diandra Toyos, a mom from California who believed her children had been targeted by human traffickers at her local IKEA.

According to her post, two suspicious looking men followed her around the store. She said at one point, an older man “came right up to me and my boys, and instinctively I put myself between he and my mobile son.” She explained that this continue throughout the store and they didn’t appear to be shopping.

But supposedly nothing happened. They never approached her children. Toyos left IKEA with all three of her children unharmed and headed home to write up her cautionary tale which quickly spread all over the internet.

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When I saw it, I rolled my eye and logged off Facebook. I knew that claims like this had largely been disproven in the past and I didn’t believe it was anything I needed to be worried about.

Here’s the thing, though—right now, I have pretty severe postpartum anxiety. Sometimes, if I have more than one cup of coffee, I feel like I can’t breathe and getting my three kids out of the house is already overwhelming without all of the talk of human trafficking.

So later on that afternoon, when my kids and I got to our favorite park, I couldn’t get it off my mind. While unloaded my three young kids, I noticed an older woman who was absolutely enthralled by the presence. She was laughing at their delight in dandelions and commenting on their beautiful curls.

And I was rude.

I was cold to her because all I could think was that maybe I wasn’t a careful enough mom, maybe the world is getting more dangerous everyday. Maybe I should be suspicious of anyone who shows special interest in my children. Even though I know there weren’t facts to back up my fears, having postpartum anxiety makes it so easy to let fear warp what I know to be true about the world.

I just hate that stories like this—fake or not—give moms one more thing to be afraid of.

Later that evening, I decided to dig in and do a little research.

Here’s what I found:

I poked around on Snopes, who shared that they couldn’t confirm or deny her story just yet, but they did point out that similar cautionary tales have since been debunked, such as the time the Oklahoma City Police made a formal statement against a mom’s claim her kids were almost trafficked in a Hobby Lobby store.

They also raised some serious questions about her concerns. They brought up the possibility that these men could have been loss prevention employees, hired to follow people around to make sure they’re not stealing merchandise. They also pointed out the fact that IKEA is literally a long, one-way maze with arrows that forces customers to follow each other around the store.

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Even if this story ends up being true, I now have other facts to set my mind at ease:

Children in America have a 1 in 300,000 chance of being abducted by a stranger. Kids who do go missing are most often taken by a non-custodial parent or someone else close to them in their life.

Compare this to driving, a necessary risk us moms take everyday taking our children to school or the grocery store. Children born in 2013 have a 1 in 606 chance of dying in a car accident.

I don't know if that makes you feel better, but it sure put things in perspective for me.

I just hate that stories like this—fake or not—give moms one more thing to be afraid of. Most of us already end our days worried we may not be doing a good job raising our kids or feeding them right foods. We don’t need to spend our time worrying about highly unlikely, worst-case scenarios.

So keep an eye on your kids in public. Drive safely and make sure your car seats are correctly installed. But don’t buy into the fear that our world gets more dangerous everyday, because that simply isn’t true.

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Photograph by: Diandra Toyos

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