The Slenderman assault – evil children are still children
Teens in adult prisons face the highest risk of sexual assault. They’re also often not mentally prepared for adult prison, and leave with a host of psychiatric problems, or sometimes don’t leave at all. Youth are 36 times more likely to commit suicide in an adult facility than in a juvenile one.
Pastor Michael Walrond Jr.
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
They were her friends and they stabbed her 19 times. She walked with them trustingly, never knowing what they planned until they struck — two baby-faced girls who had fallen into a mental space of such darkness, fostered by a website, creepypasta.com, and a fictitious character called Slenderman, so they could no longer discern or perhaps even care about what was right versus what was monstrous.
Amazingly, their victim survived after crawling out of the woods and being rescued by a cyclist.
Her assailants, appearing even younger than 12 years old, looked like babies as they were ushered into court. One resembled my granddaughter enough to tear even more at my heart. They are being tried as adults.
I am the first one who thinks these girls should get real and serious consequences. They should also get real and serious help. But should they be tried as adults? No. No. And no. No twelve year old child should be, because regardless of what they did, they are still children. Their brains aren’t even close to being mature — that doesn’t happen until age 25. It’s all still magical thinking to them, even though they knew what they were doing, knew they were planning the death of an innocent and trusting friend. I fully remember the world of 12 years old, inhabited by the fantastic that was as concrete to me as any solid object. These are not adults. They aren’t even teenagers. They are children.
Which means they don’t belong in an adult prison, surrounded by grownups who might protect them but might also ravage them. And it’s not just because they’re girls. I feel the same way about boys of that age. No matter how heinous the crime, they are children. Our social and cultural obligation to protect them cannot be abrogated by what they’ve done.
Besides, what person is more likely to be amenable to rehabilitation and redirection than a child? Unless they’re stone-cold sociopaths, born that way or created early, they can change and they’ll want to if they get good and intensive therapy. Does anyone think they will be redeemed in an adult prison? Helped? Nurtured? Taught the sacredness and beauty of life and that it needs to be revered and protected? Taught to take personal responsibility for their actions and tools to live with what they’ve done? Are you kidding?
I’ve seen what comes out even from kid jails, and it’s not pretty. I spent seven months in a Missouri version that purported to be a mental hospital but was actually a minimum security kid jail. One of our denizens, whom I knew well, shot his stepmother’s face off with a shotgun. We had a few teen prostitutes, an African-American girl tranqed to the gills with Thorazine so she wouldn’t try to run away and find the baby she’d dared to have with a white boy and a small number of the genuinely mentally ill, one of whom was quite homicidal if her medication was lowered. These kids formed feral packs, unimpeded by the staff (by policy!) and allowed to brutally enforce their own concept of social engineering. It took my threat of killing their leaders in their beds to get them to lay off bullying me. I came out with a whopping case of PTSD and the knowledge of what I could do if cornered. I’d as soon have never known. I’m also glad that the threat alone, accompanied by a look that would rival the gaze of a great white shark, was enough to get them to back off. And trust me, the people who worked there were just as terrifying, if not more so.
The PTSD is with me still.
If a kid jail was this traumatic, what sort of monsters do we turn out if we take kids who have gone terribly wrong and house them with an adult population? What sort of training in being irredeemable beasts are they going to get there? And do even children such as these deserve to be thrown away like so much garbage? We are so obsessed with revenge that it’s unlikely that we’ll see that this is the wrong approach. What are we trying to do here? Retaliate against these children? To what end? Do we want to destroy them in turn, or can we stay on our higher ground and meet them with compassion even as we make sure they know the magnitude of their doings?
It’s not as if they haven’t already ruined their lives. Since they’re being tried as adults, their names, their identities are well known. Where will they go from here, even if they somehow rehabilitate themselves? And if they do somehow manage to dredge themselves out of the little would-be murderers they’ve become, what sort of help will they get in an adult prison to deal with what they’ve done? Can you imagine waking up one day and having to accept that you savaged another kid in order to impress a fictitious Internet character? This is not on the order of magnitude of shoplifting a pack of gum. This will haunt them to the end of their days.
Like it or not, there have always been kids who have gone wrong. We’ve really never had any decent system to save them, either, and as far as I know, we still don’t. If we can create a laptop as powerful as a Kray computer, perhaps we could turn our genius to problems of far greater urgency and importance — saving the minds, hearts and even souls of two little girls who went horribly astray.