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The 12-Year-Old Slender Man Stabbing Victim Just Came Forward For The First Time

After spending the summer recovering from being stabbed 19 times, survivor Payton Leutner has returned to middle school.

Posted on September 27, 2014, at 4:39 p.m. ET

On ABC's 20/20 last night, the world got its first look at 12-year-old Slender Man stabbing victim Payton Leutner, whose parents gave a lengthy interview about her ordeal and recovery.

Though Payton was shown going about her day-to-day life, she was not asked about the stabbing.

Payton Leutner

In May, 12-year-olds Morgan E. Geyser and Anissa E. Weier, from Wisconsin, stabbed Payton 19 times to please the fictional internet meme Slender Man. They missed a major artery by a millimeter.

Payton's parents, Stacie and Joe Leutner, spoke for the first time with ABC about the attempted murder, in which the girls lured Payton into the woods under the guise of playing hide and seek.

Stacie and Joe Leutner

Officers arrived at Stacie's house and said her daughter had been stabbed, and that she was bleeding around the heart and needed to be taken to the hospital.

After she got to the trauma room, her daughter was laid out on a gurney.

"She was pale as a ghost," Stacie said. "She was terrified, she was crying, she couldn't breathe."

Most of the 19 wounds were to soft tissues, but two hit major organs, nearly penetrating her heart and just barely missing a major artery.

"If the knife had gone the width of a human hair further, she wouldn't have lived," said Dr. John Keleman, who operated on Payton.

Morgan Geyser, who allegedly carried out the stabbing and was deemed unfit for trial.

Morgan and Payton had been close friends, spending hours on the phone each night and messaging online. But Morgan had another friend, Anissa, one she shared a common interest with: The legendary boogeyman Slender Man.

Payton told her mom the girls would talk about the tall, faceless figure constantly, but that she told them it scared her and asked them to stop.

Though Stacie tried to tell her it was made-up, her daughter didn't fully believe her. "Morgan knows he's real," she told her.

Slender Man

Both girls been charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide, and will be tried as adults. Morgan was deemed incompetent to stand trial, and Anissa is still being evaluated.

If the girls stand trial Payton may have to testify.

While she spent the summer recovering, struggling to breathe for weeks, thousands of people sent Payton purple hearts with notes of support written on them.

An online fundraiser has also raised over $75,000 for Payton's medical bills.

More than 10,000 purple hearts were sent to Payton with words of encouragement.

Then, finally, the 12-year-old was able to go back to school this month, after missing the last two weeks while she recovered.

Her parents wanted to share her story to thank the thousands of people for their support, and to say they believe their daughter can be an example for others to be better.

"[Payton is] meant to do something special," her father, Joe, said. "She's here for a reason… to show the world to treat other people better, for parents who maybe see — dig a little deeper about what their children are doing, maybe she herself is supposed to be an inspiration."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.