Slenderman in the Forest

Charging the “Slenderman” Girls as Adults: We’re in the Fantasy World

Opinion, Bizarre, NakedLaw, News

The United States treats its own children more harshly in its justice system than any other developed country. Our latest victims: two troubled, violent, disturbed little girls.

In Wisconsin, two twelve year olds have apparently confessed to the brutal stabbing of a classmate, allegedly to impress “Slender Man,” a fictional, eerie, popular Internet character. The girls claim to have planned the attack for months. The victim nearly died, but is now in stable condition. Nineteen stab wounds to a little girl – sickening, horrendous, agonizing. But if we were behaving like adults, the brutality of the crime would have no bearing on whether a child is an adult. Because no matter what she does, she isn’t.

Yet Wisconsin has charged the girls as adults, which means they could face life in prison for the crime of attempted murder. Wisconsin is one of the toughest states when it comes to punishing children. A 1995 state law requires prosecutors to file adult charges in homicide or attempted homicide cases if the child is at least ten.


In my opinion, ten year olds are not old enough to play in the neighborhood unsupervised. If they’re off in the woods committing crimes, the adults responsible for them are at fault. And twelve year olds repeatedly accessing horror sites evidences adults in derogation of their duty to protect these youngsters from the many, often publicized online dangers.

Twenty-eight other states have similar laws.

No other developed country throws away the lives of their children like we do. In Europe, for example, one must actually be an adult to be tried as an adult. The American rate of juvenile incarceration is seven times that of Great Britain, and eighteen times that of France. We spend an average of $88,000 per year to keep a juvenile locked up — about ten times more than educating that child.

These middle school girls are not old enough to drink, drive, vote, or sign a legal contract. Some news sites fuzz out their photos and don’t name them. Why? Because they are children. (I agree, and am not naming them here.) Humans cannot be children in some areas and adults in others – especially when the one and only exception anywhere in our system is pretending that children are adults when we want to lock them up for the rest of their lives. We will protect their privacy in light of their tender age, but we’ll deprive them of freedom for decades in spite of it?

Our entire system should plead insanity.

Psychological research is overwhelming that juveniles have poor impulse control, inability to appreciate the long term consequences of their actions, and some difficulty in distinguishing fantasy from reality. This is why at twelve my friends and I were having séances, convincing ourselves that we were hearing voices from the other side, our Ouija boards directing our behavior. We screamed and cried and acted like idiots, insisted that we “saw” vampires under the bed.

Didn’t you?

This immaturity is precisely why twelve year olds can’t live alone, work, or even drop out of school.

Yet these girls were expected to understand Miranda warnings and intelligently waive them, or ask for a lawyer.

Who’s living in the fantasy world now? Few adults understand the meaning of legal language and have the knowledge base to make the right decision about whether to talk or waive their rights. To put it simply: any defendant who waives Miranda rights and speaks to the police made the wrong choice. As these girls did.

 They’re not even teenagers.

Most of the coverage of this story has focused on the creepy Slenderman meme. But scarier still are our legal fictions that ignore that a twelve year old is a child, because we are blinded to reality by our rage. That shadowy figure lurking in the corners of this story should be the bogeyman of our own shame.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Avvo.