You might think I’m reaching a bit when I say that Disney’s Lion King can teach you a lot about child abuse, but hear me out. If you’ve ever wondered why more kids don’t speak up and tell someone, read this.
What does The Lion King have to do with child abuse?
For most people, The Lion King is just a movie that most of us loved in childhood. We sang the songs (and probably still do), cried when Mufasa died (and probably still do), and hated Scar for what he did.
While a lot of cartoon movies have great lessons we can teach kids, I think most of us may have missed something deeply important in The Lion King: child abuse.
My child abuse experience.
I’m going to pause for a minute and tell you my story. It will help you understand where I’m coming from if you know what happened to me.
When I was a little girl, my grandma was my best friend. She lived close to us, and my sisters and I spent a lot of time at her house. When I was 10 years old, she got remarried to a man none of us knew that well.
For the next nine months, and the duration of their marriage, he sexually abused me multiple times a week. He was very good at hiding it, and very good at finding ways to manipulate me and those around him.
He repeatedly told me that I was the one at fault. That I did this to him. That I made him do what he did. He told me that if I ever told anyone, that they would know how bad of a person I was, and that I would be in serious trouble. He said that I should be the one apologizing to him.
So what does this have to do with The Lion King?
Remember that scene right after Mufasa died (how could you forget?) Scar tells Simba that everyone will know he killed his Father. He tells Simba that everyone will know how terrible he is if he goes back to his family. Scar finishes his manipulative conversation by telling Simba to run and to never return.
Scar used only a few sentences to convince Simba that he needed to remain silent, and it worked. It worked well into Simba’s adulthood. This scene makes me weep, because it’s so very similar to what happened to me as a little girl. Shhh, don’t tell anyone, because they’ll know what you did.
My abuser convinced, a now eleven-year-old me, to stay silent about what happened to me for too long. I was silent about my abuse for seven years, until I finally had the guts to “confess what I did” to a friend of mine. She told me that I was the victim in the story, not the other way around, and that moment changed my life.
Behold the power of suggestion.
Scar never SAID, “You killed your dad.” Scar only suggested that people would believe that, and let Simba’s imagination do the rest. That’s how abusers work. They manipulate and use the power of adult words to make children believe they can’t say anything.
A few sentences convinced Simba to run away from everything he loved, and to stay silent about what happened into adulthood. Children’s brains are so formidable that a few sentences of manipulation can completely alter how they think and what they believe happened.
What about Simba’s parents?
Everyone assumes that if a child is silent about what happened to them, it was because their parents didn’t do a good enough job communicating to them what to do in situations of abuse. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
My parents had an incredible, close relationship with me. They taught us from an early age what was okay, and what wasn’t and that we could and should tell them immediately if anything like that happened.
The problem in these situations is that abuse is hidden, and the words of the abuser aren’t heard by anyone but the abused. No one knows to combat what’s being said on a much more frequent basis by the abuser, so those words are what sticks in a child’s mind.
What should a parent do then?
If you’ve never been a victim of abuse, it’s hard to understand why your kids wouldn’t come to you when something like this happened. It’s hard to understand why they would believe the words of someone else, when you’ve repeatedly told them they can tell you anything.
Hopefully, this scene from The Lion King gives you some insight as to how abuse works. Abusers like Scar masquerade as family, as someone concerned for your well-being, but are actually selfish monsters who are willing to destroy a child’s life in an attempt to protect their filthy actions.
So what should a parent do? Keep the lines of communication open. I spoke about this in another article I wrote on my site, that parents need to be louder than sexual predators. Talk a lot, and talk often. Talk about everything, and nothing, and talk about abuse.
Talk about it more often than feels comfortable. Once a month at least. Be real with your words, but also be age-appropriate with your language. It’s terrible that we need to have these conversations with our kids, especially so often, but we do.
Parents, unless you were the abuser, it’s not your fault.
Please remember that. Remember that unless you were the one who abused your child, or unless they told you and you didn’t believe them and continued to allow them around their abuser, their abuse is not your fault. My abuse is not my parent’s fault, no more than Simba’s abuse was his parent’s fault.
If you were abused, you don’t need to be alone.
You have no idea how many people have told me about abuse they suffered as a child, but never told anyone else about. Some have been silent for decades! If you suffered with abuse, but were manipulated into silence, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry you had to hurt alone, but you don’t have to any longer. If you need to tell someone what happened to you, please contact me. I’ll listen to you, and I’ll believe you. Don’t suffer in silence anymore.
Pass this on.
If this opened your eyes to how abusers work, spread the word. Helping those who have never been abused understand how abuse works is tough, and sometimes illustrations like this can make a huge difference. Share it on Pinterest, social media, or wherever you can think to share it because there’s been enough silence.