There has been some dispute about whether Diandra Toyos truly encountered human traffickers at IKEA, but regardless, there's an important lesson to be learned from her experience.
Unless you've been living underneath an EXTORP sofa, you've probably heard about a mom who believed she encountered human traffickers at IKEA. Southern-California mom Diandra Toyos posted on Facebook about an experience she had taking her three kiddos, ages 4, 1, and 7 weeks, to the furniture superstore, and it has since gone viral.
While looking at couches, Toyos says, "I noticed a well dressed, middle aged man circling the area, getting closer to me and the kids. At one point he came right up to me and the boys, and instinctively I put myself between he and my mobile son. I had a bad feeling.
"He continued to circle the area, staring at the kids," she continued. "He occasionally picked something up, pretending to look at it but looking right over at us instead. My mom noticed as well and mentioned that we needed to keep an eye on him. We moved on...and so did he. Closely." That's when they noticed a second, younger man who seemed to be circling the area as well.
"We had a gut feeling something was going on, but we hoped we were wrong and they would move on," Toyos writes in the post, which has been shared more than 100,000 times at time of writing. She goes on to recount how when she, her mom, and her kids sat down for about half an hour, so did the men. And when the family got up, the men followed suit. Luckily, Toyos and her brood managed to lose the men soon after.
"These men weren't shopping," the scared mama points out at the end of her post. "They weren't waiting for anyone." In the end, she warns, "Please PLEASE be aware when you're out with your children. It's not the time to be texting or facebooking or chatting on the phone. When you're in a public place with your kids, please be aware and present so that you don't become a victim."
Since Toyos shared her experience, many have called it a hoax. Free-Range Kids blogger Lenore Skenazy is even urging parents to get a grip in an essay she wrote for the New York Post, in which she suggests this mom's story only serves to heighten the hysteria that is helicopter parenting.
While everyone is going to have their take on what happened to Toyos, the bottom line is they weren't there. And if as a parent you have a gut feeling something is off, it's very important to listen to that. As even Toyos admits, she doesn't know for sure that the men she encountered were human traffickers. She does know she got a bad vibe from these men, and that should be enough for any mom to proceed with caution.
It's worth pointing out that a recent crop of similar stories on social media could be making us parents more paranoid than usual about the potential of evil human traffickers being out there at our fav stores and trying to lure our kids away. But according to Snopes.com, these "reports were found to be based on misunderstandings, overstatements, embellishments, and not infrequently outright fabrications."
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Okay, fine. But it still seems something wasn't right with the men at the IKEA store in California. So parents, don't be afraid to follow your gut! That being said, David Finkelhor, head of the Crimes Against Children Research Center offers this advice to concerned parents: "Child abduction rarely occurs in a crowded public venue like that, where help would be easy to muster. [Moreover] most sex-trafficking lures and abductions are of teenagers. Parents should spend their worry time on other perils."
What's your take?
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and soon-to-be mom of 4. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of yoga.