We don’t seem to talk of hear much about adults who are complicit in sexual abuse (and other forms of abuse as well) – including parents – either one or both.
In other forms of crime we have a term for this and we call it accomplice. This person can be charged for a crime even if they were not the main perpetrator. But with sexual abuse… it seems we, as a society, as milder feelings about the horrific abuse of children.
The term silent partner is most often used in the case of childhood sexual abuse, but it can be used to refer to any situation relating to the abuse of another person. A silent partner is any relative or close family friend who takes the abuser’s side against the victim rather than confronting the abuser or attempting to rescue the victim from the abuser.
In essence, a silent partner, most often the wife or husband of the abuser, joins the abuser in a conspiracy of silence by not only refusing to confront the abuser but by keeping the abuse silent. It should also be noted that sometimes the silent abuser is also partaking in the abuse itself.
A silent partner is, as the name implies, often considered to be an actual partner in the abuse. She or he is partners with the abuser and, ultimately, wants to maintain that partnership at all costs. Without his or her active cooperation, the abuse would not be allowed to continue.
Saying that someone is complicit in the situation is another way of describing the role of the silent partner. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines complicit as: “Helping to commit a crime or do wrong.” The term complicity refers to the act of helping someone else behave inappropriately or illegally—being an accomplice.
Let’s hold all those accountable who are complicit in childhood abuse. Even if it pains us, makes us uncomfortable or sick to think about.