We’ve all seen the stories floating around the internet of a mom or dad out shopping with their kids,
and suddenly they realize someone’s following them.
Today I want to give you some tips to help you shop in peace next time you’re out and about, but first I need to let you know that anything I’m about to say does NOT GUARANTEE a perfect outcome. Life is messy. Sometimes even when we do everything perfectly, things still go wrong. These tips are meant to help you and give you a better chance. Also worth noting, I am not in law enforcement, nor can I give legal advice. You need to be aware of laws in your area that may dictate what you may or may not do when trying to defend yourself.
In the stories we see on Facebook, it’s usually a man walking nearby, keeping a distance of an aisle or two, but always visible. The person seems to be picking things up but not actually buying anything, and stares directly at the family, waiting for the perfect time to snatch the child with them, and force them to become victims of human trafficking. Sometimes it is a group of men (and/or women) working together. You know what I’m talking about, right? I’ve lost count of how many of these stories I’ve read.
Before we go any farther, it’s important to note that most of these stories are just that…stories. They’re based on misconceptions, confusion, or are outright lies.
In fact, Lara Powers, who is a hotline manager for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, had this to say about the famous Ikea incident: “I have never seen, read or heard about a real sex-trafficking situation in which a child was abducted by traffickers in broad daylight at a busy store under a mother’s watchful eye. It’s just not the way it works. Traffickers tend to coerce their victims because hauling them off is too risky. Their tactics generally aren’t the kind that leave physical bruises. Victims are recruited, manipulated, made dependent.”
Less than 1% of child abductions happen randomly, like in the stories we’re talking about. It’s very rare to have something like that happen to your family, but because there is a microscopic chance, here are some things you can do if you believe someone is following you.
- Our minds are incredible, but they often play tricks on us. If you think someone’s following you, try making a few turns and notice if the person is still nearby. You can also act like you’ve forgotten something and turn around the way you came. If they do the same, it’s possible that they are indeed following you.
- At this point, you want to make some mental notes about any identifying features. Are they short or tall? What color is their hair? What are they wearing, etc. Also make note of when you first noticed them, how long they were following you, and anything else you can think of. Better yet, snap a photo if you can. Your memory isn’t always accurate when trying to recall a scary situation.
- Have a chat with the store’s security team or customer service. Let them know that you feel uncomfortable and feel like you’re being followed. Ask for an escort to your vehicle.
- Depending on the situation, and based on your conversation with security, you may want to place a call to your local police to let them know about it. Do this once you have left the area and are in a safe location.
You may also want to carry something on you to defend yourself with. Most likely you will make it to your car without incident, but if you are attacked, or if someone touches your child in a way that makes you fear for their life, it would be better to have something on you than to find yourself empty handed.
So the big take away from this… random strangers following you around in the store, waiting to take your child…probably not gonna happen-
Not to you or to anyone you know. The media likes to make you think these kinds of things happen all the time, but that’s just not the case. Does that mean we stop teaching stranger danger or keep our phones in our noses when we’re out? Of course not, our children need to know that life does have some dangers, but I hope this eases your fears some.
If you find this helpful, please pass it on to your friends.