The Ikea Story that Kept Me Up All Night

The Ikea “Sex Trafficking” story made me so upset. At first, I felt upset at myself for not being more careful with my kids when I shop (especially at that very same Ikea!) How could I be so careless? But by the time I got to the end of the story, I was upset for a different reason.

As a mom prone to worry and anxiety… As a highly sensitive person who is already very cautious and who is good at imagining worst case scenarios, I believe articles like these are an affront to my sanity and sense of well-being.

You guys, I’m not a helicopter mom on the OUTSIDE. I give my kids as much space and freedom as I can possibly muster. But I’m a helicopter parent on the INSIDE. My rational side knows that my kids are safe here in the U.S. Of A (not 100% safe, but safe enough.) My rational side has read the statistics which say the chances of my kids being abducted in a public place are infinitessimal. But that rational side is at constant war with my primal, mama-bear within. This primal, protective side has it’s place, for sure. But it’s also easily stoked by articles such as these. Some might say, GOOD! A little more worry, a little more caution; it’s all good. I strongly disagree.

Any ounce of worry and energy put toward completely unlikely dangers has trade-offs.

  • A parent’s sanity.
  • Takes our attention from true threats (car accidents, drowning, depression and suicide to name a few in the top 5 causes of child mortality.)
  • Causes us to deprive our children of space and independence (and the street smarts that develop as a result) that will serve them very well in the future.
  • Passes on a fear of strangers that could negatively affect them in the future.

I’m not directing my anger toward this mother. A friend of mine who actually knows this mom pointed out that this mom can’t help her gut feeling. I agree. We all get weirded out in public from time to time. There is this bagger at Sprouts who really creeps me out. The way he looks at my kids makes me choose a different line and leave in a hurry. But the fact that the mom’s hunch or 6th sense was turned into a dire warning to all parents complete with totally misleading titles such as “Mom of 3 Posts Warning to Other Parents: We Were Targets” makes me upset.  Perhaps not the mom’s fault that her story became so viral, but the fact that it did really peeves me.

I also don’t mean to be flippant about child trafficking. It’s horrific and every parent’s worst nightmare. But I think it’s important to note that the odds of it happening to a) young children b) in a public place c) by a stranger are extremely low. 97% of child abductions are by caregivers/family/friends, not strangers.  I’m not sure what percentage of that 3% is sex trafficking, but I’ll get it’s pretty small.

I grieve the “good old days” when I was growing up. I was allowed to walk a mile to the local grocery store at age 8 to buy jolly ranchers. I didn’t fear every stranger I passed along the way. I miss those days of safety. BUT WAIT, those days are still here. The crimes rates are actually lower now. So why are we all so worried? In part, social media and articles like these. That’s why I’m upset.

I found these statistics to be eye-opening (and definitely counter-intuitive!)


  1. Jennifer O. says

    I respectfully have to disagree with you on your take. I believe my son was targeted at a Toys’ r us close to this very same IKEA. I had such a bad feeling when I saw a man take a photo on his cell phone of me and my family and then follow us through the store. He even made eye contact with me as he walked through the store by himself and didn’t pick up one toy. I believe that he backed off when he saw we weren’t letting our son out of our sight. Thank you, Lord for your protection!!

    • frazzled says

      I definitely respect intuition. I think it’s so important, especially after recently reading “The Gift of Fear”. If you felt something was off, then good for you for being vigilent. I don’t think we disagree about that part, I just disagree with the way this story was distorted, mislabeled and propagated through the media, sparking fear in so many (including myself.) I trust my intuition, but I also think the media steers our attention away from the far more likely dangers (cars? internet addiction by children? abuse by non-strangers?) That’s what makes me most upset.

  2. Vanessa says

    There are going to be moments when you’re going to have to be vigilant with any danger with your children, and abduction one of them (BTW my brother who is 53 was almost abducted as a kid – back when kids were allowed to “free range” – he fought the guy off). So, you can’t just say the statistics are low, I’m not going to worry. I would hate to be that one statistic who lost their child. Kids need their guardian angels *and* parents to watch over them. I cringe at the mom who lost her child while shopping for shoes (in Protecting the Gift by Gavin de Becker).


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