Have you ever known someone who has ran away from home? Do you ever wonder why? In 2016, 33,627 youth crisis related calls, chats, emails, and posting were reported to the National Runaway Safeline. At the time of contact, 16 percent of those youth were runaways, 8 percent were homeless, and 4 percent were classified as throwaways (National Runaway Safeline 2016). The amount of youth on the street was added up to equal 28 percent. On the 12th of February of 2007, American rapper Ludacris released the video to the third single off his fifth album ‘Release Therapy” called Runaway Love. The song and video, which feature R&B singer Mary J. Blige, highlights three different young girl’s struggles, that ultimately lead them to leave their life behind and run away from home.
The first story is about Lisa, a nine-year-old girl. She feels like she’s all alone because she’s never met her father or any of the rest of her relatives. Due to her loneliness, she finds company in her stuffed toy bunny. Her mother is always gone, not literally, but high on hardcore drugs; she brings several men home at different hours of the night and they end up fighting. Lisa is shown peeking through the door, witnessing her mother and one of the men argue, which then leads him to get physical with her mom. When Lisa’s mom knocks out from her high, the men invited over sneak into her’s room and “try to have their way” while little Lisa says “ouch”. During one encounter, Lisa, clearly terrified, tries to huddle in the corner of her bed while putting her face in her knees to hide from the man. When she attempts to resist, he ends up beating her. After working up the courage, she goes to confide to her mom about the men she invites over do to her, but her mom won’t even listen to what Lisa is telling her. Instead, she is caught up on getting her next high. Parental substance abuse has negative effects in children. These children are “known to experience higher rates of maltreatment, neglect, physical and sexual abuse, behavioral and socio-emotional problems” (Lewis, Holmes, Mathers, and Watkins 1). Lisa ticks off several of these problems, which have led her to make the tough decision to run away from home. At the end of her story, she is seen crying, turning back to take one last look at the person who is supposed to nurture her, passed out high on the table. Realizing that she is no longer able to rely on her parent, she makes the decision to leave her home. With a packed duffel bag on her shoulder, she runs out of her front door.
The next story is about a 10-year-old named Nicole. Nicole is checking herself out in the mirror, and although she is a beautiful girl, she is displeased with the way she looks. Her self-esteem issues make her insecure and lead her to believe that no one likes her. Nicole’s low self-esteem is likely due to emotional and physical problems she faces at home (Leary, Haupt, and Schreindorfer). Her alcoholic step-dad constantly yells at her and leaves her with bruises. As a result, she is petrified of him; as soon as she hears him knock on her door, she frantically runs under her bed to hide. At school, Nicole’s gym teacher notices multiple bruises on her back and questions her on them. Nicole is quick to make up excuses and hide the truth from her teacher. Children hiding their abuse from elders is not uncommon. There are several reasons as to why kids may hide what is going on behind closed doors. According to Mark Perry, a practicing pediatrics doctor in New York, the feeling of helplessness, isolation, guilt and disgrace are common amongst child abuse victims. They also feel helpless and powerless, especially if the abuse is coming from someone that is close to them (1). Due to these reasons, they are more than likely to unable to work up the courage to report the abuse. Fortunately, she ends up meeting a girl named Stacy, and they pinky promise to be friends for life. Until one day, Stacy was walking with Nicole outside, a drive-by bullet struck her, and she ends up succumbing to her wound. Sobbing on her bed, Nicole circles the picture of Stacy in her yearbook, and writes “R.I.P.” under it. Again, Nicole is left to face this world on her own. As her step-father is banging on her bedroom door, she quickly packs her backpack up, and frantically escapes through her window.
The last story is about Erica, an 11-year-old. She is first seen in a car with her boyfriend, popping ecstasy pills to help her get rid of all the pain she is feeling. Her boyfriend, who is 16 years old, is taking advantage of young Erica; he is her drug enabler. He makes her believe that she is his true love, and therefore they use no protection during sexual intercourse. Not knowing she is being taken advantage of, she doesn’t think of the consequences that may occur from having unprotected sex; she is blinded from his love. As the days pass by, her belly grows. When she goes to tell her boyfriend the news, she finds him flirting with another girl. When he notices her baby bump, he flicks his hand, signaling Erica to go away. Showing no sympathy, he proves his immaturity; he is not ready to raise a child. Since the 1990s, Recent data suggests approximates that “one out of two fathers are absent from their children’s lives (Patel and Mavungu 20). Now Erica, who is still a child herself, is forced to deal with this issue alone. She has yet to tell her mom, because she has a feeling the situation will be blown out of proportion. In addition, her family is poor, so getting an abortion is out of the picture. Erica decides to go to a women’s health center to get help, but she is still scared of the consequences she will face if her mother finds out. As she walks up to her front door of her home, she envisions her mom grabbing and yelling at her. Not wanting to confide in her mom about her pregnancy, she makes the tough decision to pack up her backpack and still in her school uniform, run away from home. Her hopelessness is apparent as she sits on a park bench alone sobbing.
At the end of every girl’s story, Ludacris repeats “[Girl’s name] is stuck up in the world on her own, forced to think that hell is a place called home, nothin’ else to do but get some clothes and pack, she says she’s ’bout to run away and never come back”. These repeated lyrics emphasize how desperate these young girls felt. They felt as though being away from home, on the streets where shelter, food, and comfort is not readily available was their best option. During our adolescent years, the last things on our minds should be to leave our family behind. But to many youth, this choice is a reality they will have to face. In the YouTube comments under the music video, the video’s and song’s appeal to Pathos is noticeable. There are more than 22,000 comments; after scrolling for a few minutes, the majority were about the commenter’s experiences with abuse and how they can relate to Lisa, Nicole, and Erica, but also how this song and video made them cry. The amount of people relating to this song is no surprise; throughout different parts of the video, Blige is shown walking through an alley with hundreds of missing child flyers posted on the wall with the number of the National Runaway Safeline. This song was released to let those that have gone, or are going through abuse know that they are not alone.
Ludacris and Mary J. Blige do a great job at portraying struggles that lead to this difficult decision. With three individual stories, they were able to cover different kinds of abuse. Ludacris had been an advocate for helping youth for decades. In 2001, he founded The Ludacris Foundation, which focuses on three aspects: leadership and education, community outreach, and leaving healthy lifestyles (Hip Hop Gives Back). On an episode of VH1’s “Behind the Music”, a show which documents the hardships that rap and R&B artists went through to reach their success, Mary J. Blige opened up about being sexually abused as a child and wanting to runaway as a result of it. She revealed how the trauma of the molestation, which began at the tender age of five, followed her throughout adulthood, which led to issues with drug and substance abuse, and low-self esteem. With the help of her husband, she was able to sober up and find worth in her life again (Gracely). Blige’s ability to overcome her trauma gives abuse victims the hope that they too can leave their past behind.
“Crisis Hotline Statistics.” https://www.1800runaway.org/, National Runaway Safeline, http://www.1800runaway.org/runaway-statistics/crisis-hotline-online-services-statistics/?utm_source=youthandteens&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=runawaystatsadgrouprunaway2010817ver2&gclid=EAIaIQobChMInPrHxuzl2QIVEHZ-Ch0aTgIjEAAYASAAEgL3m_D_BwE. The National Runaway Safeline is a resource designated for homeless and runaway youth. They provide services to homeless youth and their families. I used this source to provide statistics for the number of homeless youth there were in 2016. The statistics for 2017 are not up yet. The National Runaway Safeline is run by the United States federal government.
Gracely, Joe. “Mary J. Blige Reveals Painful Past.” NY Daily News, 25 July 2011, http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/mary-blige-reveals-sexually-abused-molested-child-article-1.157740. This article summarizes Mary J. Blige’s interview on the television show “Behind the Music” regarding her experience being abused as a child, and how the abuse affected her growing up. I used this source to show that one of the artists of this song went through abuse and was able to overcome it. Joe Gracely is a NY Daily News contributor. He reported what Blige said in the interview.
Leary, Mark R., et al. “The Role of Low Self-Esteem in Emotional and Behavioral Problems: Why Is Low Self-Esteem Dysfunctional?” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, vol. 14, no. 3, 1995, pp. 297–314., doi:10.1521/jscp.1922.214.171.1247. This article explains the role that low self-esteem contributes to emotional and behavioral problems. I used this source to prove why Nicole has low self-esteem. This is a scholarly journal.
Lewis Andrew., et al. “Children Impacted by Parental Substance Abuse” Journal of Child & Family Studies, vol. 24, no. 8, Aug. 2015, pp. 2398-2406. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s10826-014-0043-0. This journal explores the reasons as to why children are impacted by substance abuse. The author talks about how to support these kids and a program that may aid them. I used this source to explain the negative effects that parental substance abuse has on Lisa. This is a scholarly journal.
LudacrisVEVO. “Ludacris – Runaway Love Ft. Mary J. Blige.” YouTube, YouTube, 14 Jan. 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISvMS6s41vY. This is the citation to the music video that I wrote my analysis on. I felt like I had to cite it because I wrote about the comments under the music video. The video comes from Ludacris’ certified VEVO account.
“Ludacris Foundation.” » Ludacris Foundation, 2016, hiphopgivesback.com/ludacris-foundation/. This web page explains what services that the Ludacris Foundation provides. It also gives insight on the history of the foundation. I used this source to give a reason as to why Ludacris wrote this song; he is passionate about helping youth in need.
Patel, Leila and Eddy Mazembo Mavungu. “‘Children, Families and the Conundrum about Men” South African Review of Sociology, vol. 47, no. 2, May 2016, pp. 19-39. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/21528586.2016.1161543. This article explores factors that contribute to father absence. The authors provide statistics and reasoning. I used this source to provide a statistic to prove that Erica’s boyfriend bailing on her while she was pregnant was not uncommon. This is a scholarly journal.
Perry, Mark. “Child Abuse: Why Children Hide?” HealthGuidance.org, Health Guidance, http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/11084/1/Child-Abuse-Why-Children-Hide.html. This article explores the reasoning as to why children tend to hide the abuse they are receiving. I used this source to explain why Nicole made up excuses to her gym teacher about the bruises she had. Mark Perry is a practicing pediatrician in New York. He is a Health Guidance contributor.