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‘Intensive Care’

Maybe it’s because I’ve been binge-watching “Criminal Minds” lately, but I feel the need to discuss a song or three about abuse. Whether it’s abuse of children or adults, whether it’s physical or emotional, it can leave a scar. Luckily, I have never been involved in abuse myself, but I’ve been friends with a few victims and I’ve seen so much on the news that it’s really a sore topic in today’s society. That’s probably why there even are so many songs about the subject.

I was just going to pick one song to talk about, but I couldn’t narrow it down. So here are my top three: “Alyssa Lies” by Jason Michael Carroll, “The Little Girl” by John Michael Montgomery and “Goodbye Earl” by the Dixie Chicks.

“Alyssa Lies” is a song about a little girl who is being abused at home, but lies about it in school and covers up the bruises. Her teacher doesn’t recognize the signs, but the daughter of the singer does – in a way – not understanding what she’s seeing. It’s a very sad song that ends sadly to make a point. Before the singer can do something to fix the problem, the girl has been killed by her abuser. This points to a flawed system of protection for children against abuse, since it’s very coincidental and difficult to determine, and children aren’t routinely checked for such symptoms (such as wearing long sleeves in summer and explaining that they have a lot of bruises because they “fall” a lot). When these children sometimes do speak up, they are often considered to be lying or making up stories to get attention.

“…And I told her that Alyssa wouldn’t be in school today./She doesn’t lie/In the classroom./She doesn’t lie/Anymore at school./Alyssa lies with Jesus./Because there’s nothing that anyone would do!”

“The Little Girl” by John Michael Montgomery is more about emotional abuse suffered by the protagonist, though her parents certainly abused each other. This story may have a happier ending, but it’s still a terrible fate in general for a child to have to spend so much time watching parents abuse themselves through drugs and alcohol before ultimately hurting each other right in front of her. She’s spared, and in the story it is related to religion, which strikes a chord with me, though I understand that not everyone shares my religious beliefs. Still, the fact that no one noticed the problems going on in this child’s life points to not just negligent parents and family, but a negligent system.

Children need to be protected – sometimes from their own parents – but we currently don’t have the right systems in place to properly meet the care needs of every child who faces these issues.

“And the drinking, and the fighting just got worse every night./Behind their couch she’d be hiding. Oh what a sad little life./And like it always does, the bad just got worse./With every slap and every curse./Until her Daddy, in a drunken rage one night/Used a gun on her mom, and then took his life./And some people from the city took the girl far away./To a new Mom and a new Dad:/Kisses and hugs every day.”

Now for something completely different, as Monty Python would have it. “Goodbye Earl” is a fun, upbeat song with lyrics that discuss physical abuse in a relationship and one – rather extreme and illegal – manner of dealing with it. I don’t really like the song for the way that it considers dealing with this kind of problem, but it’s done in a fun way which makes it interesting to me. However, the way in which the song describes the processes of dealing with the abuse legally but needing to take illegal action to make it stop is another way of pointing out the limitations of systems in place to protect people from physical abuse.

“Well she finally got the nerve to file for divorce./She let the law take it from there./But Earl walked right through that restraining order/and put her in intensive care.”

I’m starting to think the protective services we have already in place need to be put in the ICU. Since there seem to still be so many problems implementing these systems, maybe it’s time to re-work the system a bit.


You can follow Gabrielle on Twitter @bookwormwillow

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