On Saturday, May 30, two twelve-year-old girls stabbed a classmate with the stated intent of killing her, as reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Morgan Geyser invited Anissa Weier and another classmate from Horning Middle School in Waukesha, Wisconsin, to celebrate Morgan’s birthday at a sleepover at Morgan’s house. Unbeknownst to the third girl, Morgan and Anissa weren’t planning to give each other manicures and talk about boys. They weren’t planning to hunker down and tell scary stories and play Truth or Dare. Morgan and Anissa were planning to kill their classmate as a sign of dedication to a fictional character named Slender Man, and they had planned the attack for months.
I live about 15 miles from the park where these stabbings occurred. My daughters are twelve and eleven years old. But you don’t have to live this close to the attack or have children the same age to be baffled and heartbroken by these events. Out of broken hearts will arise devastating questions for these three families, and for the rest of us as well.
Lizzy Meade, 12 years old, had this to say:
Here in the woods of Waukesha, two 12-year-old girls stabbed their “friend” nineteen times and almost killed her. She is only alive because she was able to crawl out onto the road, where she was seen. It is scary to hear about anything like this. Even more scary when they are your age. Even more scary when it occurs less than half an hour from where you live. The fact that these girls were the same age as me, and had planned this attack for months is not something easy to talk about. I do not have words for how to describe how sad, and frightening this is. My question is: how can these girls think of something like this, and actually go through with their plan? What kind of world do we live in that this is the type of thing two 12-year-old girls would do to a friend?
A lot of people are asking those same questions right now, and in the coming days there will surely be a great deal of speculation about children using the internet and the role of horror and violence as forms of entertainment in shaping these girls’ imaginations and actions. At this time, Morgan and Anissa are being tried not as children but as adults, and that decision raises a series of questions of its own. A lot will be said and written in the coming weeks about this case. Perhaps after there has been a bit more time to absorb and reflect upon what has happened.
In the immediate aftermath, though, I’d like to share with our readers what I shared with my middle school-aged daughters, not only as their mom, but also as an experienced self-defense instructor.
The best way to stay safe is to stay strong and to stay positive. The best way to pick safe friends is to know yourself, and to like yourself, and to value yourself.
Involve yourself in creative activities that bring you joy and connect you with other kids who are committed to creative projects.
Talk openly with the adults in your life. Ask them to respect your independence, and in turn respect their need to keep you safe.
Leave a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable. Ask yourself which will be more important in your life in a year — whether you left a party early or whether you were harmed.
Put your energy into compassion and understanding, not judgment and fear. Stay focused on the good in people while being aware that not all people make good choices.
There is, of course, much more to be said on the matter of teen safety, and in my opinion it is best said regularly and in small doses. I believe that every girl should know how to swim (be safe in the water), know how to defend herself on the ground (be safe on land), and know how to choose a safe adult — familiar or stranger — to ask for help. These are skills everyone can learn, should learn, and must practice. Confidence, kindness, and compassion are also safety skills. The more we cultivate them in our friends and ourselves, the safer and happier we will be.
Choose to put joyful, life-renewing, inspiring things into your mind and heart. Determine to let truthful, compassionate, and inspiring ideas out of your soul, whether in spoken word, written word, art, or action. There is no greater power than your sustained attention to an idea, and that power is yours to use as you choose.
Reprinted with permission from Germ Magazine.