A teenage girl who was knifed 19 times by her friends in what became known as the Slenderman stabbing slept with a pair of scissors for months after the 2014 attack and still does not feel safe more than three years later.
Payton Leutner was attacked by her friends Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser in Waukesha, Wisconsin, in 2014. They were all 12 at the time.
They told authorities they were trying to save themselves from the fictional internet character Slenderman who they said would kill them unless they hurt Payton.
Both girls were found not guilty of attempted murder by way of insanity and have been ordered to serve out their sentences in mental hospitals.
Payton Leutner was stabbed by her friends 19 times in 2014. She is pictured in a recent photo released by her family
On Tuesday, Payton’s mother Stacie submitted a lengthy victim impact statement which described for the first time how affected she had been by the attack.
She told of Payton’s 25 scars – 19 from the attack and six from subsequent, life-saving surgeries, which ‘tingle and ache’ to this day.
‘Shopping for homecoming dresses leaves only a few options because far too many dresses will show off her scars.
‘Beach vacations are harsh reminders that swimsuits aren’t made for young girls with 25 scars,’ she wrote.
Stacie and her husband Joe decided not to object to her attackers’ sentences because if they had, their daughter may have had to take the stand and relive the grisly attack.
‘Traumatizing her further didn’t seem worth it. She has never talked about her attack so asking her to testify and relive her experience in front of a courtroom of strangers felt cruel and unnecessary,’ she said.
Anissa Weier, pictured in court in September, will have to spend a minimum of three years in a mental hospital
Morgan Geyser, one of the two girls involved in the attack, is seen in September in court
She said her daughter still keeps the curtains in her bedroom closed and that she was ‘different’ after was released from hospital.
Payton miraculously survived by flagging down a passing cyclist who called an ambulance.
While her family commended her for going back to school, making new friends and travelling, they said the attack still haunted her.
‘She was more reserved and more cautious. She held everyone at arm’s length and never let anyone get too close.
‘She immersed herself in school in an attempt to distract herself from the uncertainty of her life; everything she knew about her home and her family was different.
‘And she didn’t know how to cope with that,’ they said.
Payton’s family said she slept with scissors for months after the attack and still does not feel safe. She is pictured aged 12, around the time of the attack
Payton only survived because she flagged down a passing cyclist. The girls had left her for dead in the woods and run away on foot
Anissa and Morgan were obsessed with the fictional internet character at the time and told police they believed they would be killed unless they hurt their friend. They are pictured in their mugshots aged 12
Her brother has also suffered, she said, because the trauma of his sister’s situation meant the family focused all of their attention on her.
‘He still struggles with … the belief that he is somehow less important than his sister,’ she said.
The mother also said it was her daughter’s compassion which led her into the woods on the day of the attack.
‘Payton knew that if she wasn’t Morgan’s friend, then Morgan wouldn’t have any friends, and believed everyone deserved at least one friend,’ she said.
Both Weier and Geyser will be sentenced this week but they have been told to expect a minimum of three years in their mental hospitals.
WHO IS SLENDER MAN? THE ONLINE MYTH ‘THE GIRLS BELIEVED’
The Slender Man is a fictional character that originated in an online art contest in 2009, before becoming a popular meme.
The mythical creature is often depicted as an unnaturally tall, thin figure with a blank, featureless face, wearing a black suit.
The character is said to have creepily long, tentacle-like arms, which can be extended to capture prey.
It is described as stalking, abducting and traumatizing children, and – depending on variations of the urban legend – can cause memory loss, insomnia and paranoia.
It is also said to be able to create distortions in photographs and teleport.
The character is understood to have originated in a Photoshop contest on the forums of comedy website Something Awful in 2009.
It then went viral, with numerous works of fan art and short scary stories – known as ‘creepypasta’ – published online.
The character has developed its own life online, with two feature-length films funded in part by Kickstarter appearing in 2012, along with many amateur video games and pop-culture references.