It's not her fault.
The more I speak to the partners of men who have viewed indecent images the more I learn about the untold nightmare they face.
Men are sometimes removed from the family home due to bail or social care restrictions, or because their partner needs them to be somewhere else. If they have children, this can leave a mother trying to manage her own heartache alongside the distress and confusion of their children. The shame felt by association often means partners tell very few trusted friends, if any at all. That feeling of isolation increases. Professionals observe and judge what a mother's decisions might mean about the safety of her children leaving the woman feeling like she is under a microscope. Whilst others struggle to comprehend that she did not know what he was really doing online.
If she says she knows what her partner has done, without offering excuses for him, then she is also saying that she has loved, and perhaps still does, a man many will see to be inherently bad. If she accepts that when she thought he was watching films or just staying up late, he was actually committing offences online, she then wonders what else he has lied about. If she accepts that he has deliberately looked at images of young girls she wonders if this is her fault, for simply ageing or having different sexual wants.
All of these thoughts can exist whilst having a concern that if she does leave him, and if he can not see his children, and if he is looking at a prison sentence, he may choose to take his life.
Does that sound extreme? I guess it does. But it's the reality for thousands of partners across the UK. Now, imagine that man is your own partner. The man who knows how you like your tea, who gets up in the night when your child shouts out, who cried when your cat was put to sleep. These are the type of regular things that the men we work with do in their families. Because it is possible to do good as well as doing bad. To be an excellent father, who has done a terrible thing.
Staying or going may not be a black and white decision for those whose partners have offended. Because once you bring in memories, hopes for your future, humiliation, anger, love and despair it becomes one huge grey decision that no-one thinks they will ever have to make. For many, it isn't as simple as you may think it is.
If you learn of a friend or colleague whose partner has viewed indecent images of children, try to remember she may feel as though she now lives in an abyss with judgement from all corners. Her situation is incredibly difficult and she needs your compassion.