No, there’s not a missing teens/human trafficking crisis in Iowa

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No, there’s not a missing teens/human trafficking crisis in Iowa

The disappearance of Mollie Tibbetts has created a number of false rumors

The search for missing Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts has entered its second week, and swirling around her disappearance are a number of unverified or plainly false rumors that have sent the state into meltdown. Mollie, 20, was last seen jogging near Brooklyn, Iowa on July 18. She never showed up to work the next day, and since then the entire state has been searching for her.

And into this tragedy, a load of frantic gossip has captured the imagination of young people in Iowa – sex trafficking rings preying on students, groups of men trying to kidnap girls, and white Honda Accords stalking young women. Among the most terrifying, and provably untrue rumors, is that almost 40 teens have been kidnapped in a 10 day period along the I-80. Thousands and thousands of people have engaged with tweets and posts like this:

"Why is this not national news?" screamed one commenter. "This is scary," said another. "Obviously there is some type of human trafficking going on." And: "We need to all pack our bags and get the hell away from Omaha."

That number – 40 teens have been abducted and sold into sex trafficking in the last few days – would be extremely scary, if it were true.

"The number of missing juveniles reported in recent weeks is in line with historical numbers," said the Iowa Department of Public Safety – the number of missing kids is not unusual. "Typically these cases are runaway situations," they added. "The vast majority of which are found or returned home within 24 hours."

Wanting a conspiracy theory (sex trafficking is stealing girls in Iowa) to explain your darkest irrational fear (getting kidnapped when you're alone) is natural. Sex trafficking is an underreported issue, but it is not kidnapping 40 people from Iowan college towns. Stirring up mass panic and claiming there is a crisis of kidnapped Iowans definitely won't help.

Mollie Tibbetts, 5'2" and approximately 120 lbs, went missing on July 18th. She has long brown hair and brown eyes. Anyone with any information related to this investigation is encouraged to contact the Poweshiek County Sheriff’s office at 641-623-5679 or [email protected]

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