New York City police have charged a 12-year-old girl with felony assault after she poured boiling water on sleeping 11-year-old Jamoneisha Merritt, who goes by Jamone, during a sleepover. The attack left the girl with severe burns to her face, shoulders, neck, and chest. According to a report from the Belleview News-Democrat, the act was part of the “Hot Water Challenge,” a prank allegedly inspired by YouTube videos, where hot water is poured on an unsuspecting friend.
But according to the girl’s mother, Ebony Merritt, the act was just another escalation in a campaign of bullying against her daughter. Ebony said that she’d heard that the other girls didn’t like her daughter and that there had been bullying on Instagram. “The girl admitted it,” Ebony said.
“‘I don’t like her. I wanted to do it.'”
Reports say that an adult was home at the time of the incident.
According to CBS Local, Merritt’s cousin Yolanda Richardson was also present at the time. She told them that the two girls had been arguing the night before, and Merritt was told that if she fell asleep, the other girls were “going to do something to her.” Allegedly, Merritt was asleep on a couch at around 3 a.m. when the 12-year-old, who has not been identified, boiled a pot of water and poured it over her head. Merritt was rushed to Harlem Hospital in serious, but stable condition, and her mother spent the morning talking with prosecutors before she was able to see her daughter.
“She said she was screaming, that she was burning,” said Richardson.
According to Richardson’s remarks, a recording of the event may exist, including a confession from the alleged perpetrator. Her case will be handled in family court, as she was charged as a juvenile.
Ebony said that her daughter is in serious pain, physically and emotionally – not just from her injuries, but from the betrayal. She added that they haven’t allowed the girl to see her own face yet. “She’s emotionally messed up,” said Ebony. “She don’t understand why they did that to her.” She added that she doesn’t feel that the adult present at the sleepover did enough to prevent the attack. The girl’s aunt, Lawrene Merritt, added that the family was talking to her and trying to keep her spirits up.
Although it would be premature to call it a trend, other reports of Hot Water Challenge-related injuries have been cropping up in the local news recently. According to TIME, the challenge had already resulted in one fatality in late July. Eight-year-old Ki’ari Pope of Florida was challenged by her cousin to drink boiling water through a straw, suffering severe burns to her mouth and throat. Several months later, after a tracheotomy to bypass the damage, she suffered respiratory failure.
Ki’ari’s parents and other parents of victims of the “prank” are now urging families to be aware of what their kids are doing online and warn them against the dangers of reenacting things that they see there.
That having been said, claims that the prank originated on YouTube have thus far been entirely unsubstantiated, and only a few incidents have actually been reported. Like so many other internet scares in the past, the Hot Water Challenge may be more smoke than fire, but parents should always be vigilant when their kids are in the kitchen, regardless.
[Featured Image by natasaadzic/iStock]