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Is 2007's The Girl Next Door Based On A True Story?

The following article includes subject matter containing child abuse and sexual assault.

When pushing the boundaries of violence depicted on screen, how far is too far? This is the question that 2007's "The Girl Next Door" attempts to answer. Not to be confused with the 2004 film of the same name starring Elisha Cuthbert, the film portrays harrowing levels of torture that take endurance to get through. While films such as "Saw" and "The Purge" use violence to put a mirror up to the audience, "The Girl Next Door" has no such luxury. For 91 minutes, audiences have to watch as an innocent 14-year-old orphan, Meg (Blythe Auffarth), is assaulted, burned, and ridiculed by her alleged caregiver, Ruth (Blanche Baker). Ruth even invites her sons to brutalize Meg until her death.

And if that wasn't hard enough to sit through, don't worry. It was inspired by a book you can pick up at any time. In 1989, Jack Ketchum wrote the book that inspired the movie after he was inspired by reality. The true case occurred in Indiana in the mid-sixties and is just as brutal as the respective film and book. The real-life victim was named Sylvia Likens, and her story shined a spotlight on the tragedy of child abuse cases swept under the rug.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

The real case echoed through pop culture

Some details may have changed from reality to film, but "The Girl Next Door" doesn't stray too far from the real story. In real life, Sylvia and her sister Jenny Likens were entrusted to Gertrude Baniszewski's care after leaving a troubled home. Enraged that she had to care for two children and a brood of her own, Baniszewski took her anger out on Sylvia. Like in "The Girl Next Door," things escalated until the family imprisoned her in the basement. Baniszewski had her children and other young locals join in on the violence until Sylvia died from her wounds. Luckily, Jenny survived and reported this to the police, resulting in Baniszewski's arrest.

This story gave way to the book by Jack Ketchum, but it wasn't the only one. The story gripped the attention of true crime film lovers, leading to feature films. Starring Elliot Page as Sylvia, "An American Crime" was developed around the same time as "The Girl Next Door." The film takes a more direct approach to the events, depicting the uncomfortable facts of Sylvia's torture.

"What she went through is truly and utterly nauseating, inconceivable," Page told ComingSoon.net. "It's far worse than the film. If people want to learn about it, they can find it on the Internet and read up on it. It's just absolutely atrocious, and if this was even three-quarters of that, it would be unwatchable."