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Useless Bystander Parent

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This parent enables abuse and/or bullying by doing nothing.

They never hurt their children. They may clearly love their children. They probably know that they should protect their children. Yet they don't. Instead, they watch from the sidelines, chewing their lip and wringing their hands as their offspring are neglected, exploited, or abused.

The reason for their inaction varies. Many are scared of their partners, and, in some cases, they have had their spirits broken — they tried to stand up for themselves or their children in the past, and the fallout was so terrifying that they gave up. Some feel that they owe loyalty to their partner first and foremost, no matter how horrible that partner may be or how much they disagree with them. Others suffer from such crippling self-esteem issues (usually made worse by the abusive party) that they fail to trust their own judgement, they and assume that the abusive party must be right — the abuser must be the "proper" parent and the bystander is the weak one that doesn't know how to discipline their children. Some are caught in a hopelessly tangled situation, afraid to take action in case they're wrong. Others are simply weak-willed, cowardly, or apathetic by nature, and becoming a parent hasn't changed that fact.

This character is rarely completely unsympathetic, especially if we know that they have tried to do something. However, much depends on their circumstances: the spouse of a Knight Templar who crusades for one child at the expense of the others is generally sympathetic, especially if they try to "make up" for the neglect. However, a parent who brings a new paramour into the house and stands by when he insults or attacks the kids might be judged even more harshly than the abuser — not only have they failed to defend their children, they brought the threat into the house in the first place.

While the attacker is normally a partner or spouse, it can be a Sadist Teacher or even a child bully that this parent cannot or will not stand up to.

In order to qualify as a UBP, the parent must know that something is wrong. If they are completely unaware that their children are in trouble, they don't qualify. However, if they are clearly pretending that nothing is wrong and are too quick to make excuses to concerned parties and handwave any possible unpleasantness, then they count. If they are in a situation where they are truly, totally helpless — such as being chained up while their vicious ex-partner attacks their children — then they do not count as long as it is clear to the viewer that they would rescue their child if they could.

Usually, if the abuse is physical, the UBP will be female and the abuser male. If the abuse is emotional, the reverse is usually true. A step-parent can be a UBP and will generally be sympathetic, as their desire to help the kids will conflict with not wanting to overstep the mark. The opposite of a Mama Bear or Papa Wolf. Particularly depressing subtrope of Adults Are Useless.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Black Lagoon: Revy's Start of Darkness into the nihilistic gunslinger she is now was when she was raped as a girl by a Dirty Cop and her abusive father blew her off. This led her to fatally shoot him.
  • In Death Note, Teru Mikami's mother cares for her son, and when he gets himself beaten up while trying to protect others from bullies, she tells him that he should not try to take on the impossible task of protecting everyone. While the third-person omniscient narrator for his flashbacks in the manga supports that she said what she did for his sake, Teru himself narrates in the anime that his mother was not just, and sees her death along with several bullies as proof of a god that punishes evildoers.
  • Elfen Lied: Mayu's stepfather molested her on a regular basis. Her mother, rather than doing anything about it, saw Mayu as a rival who wanted to steal her husband.
  • Fruits Basket:
    • Momiji's dad ultimately chooses his wife over his son, asking Hatori to wipe his wife's memory of Momiji to prevent her from confronting the oh-so-horrible fact that, through no fault of his own, Momiji turns into a cute bunny when hugged. He promises Momiji that he'll love him twice as much to make up for his mother rejecting him. Yet all we see him do is constantly run interference to make sure Momiji sees as little of his mother and sister as possible. Momiji is even expected to apologise if he runs into them accidentally. When Momiji's sister, Momo, decides she wants to learn the violin, Momiji's dad stops Momiji's lessons in favour of his daughter getting the best violin tuition without the risk of her encountering her brother... Even though the main reason Momo wants to learn violin is so she could play for Momiji, who she wants to have as a big brother. As with nearly all parents in this series, no-one ever calls him out on this.
    • Akito's father, Akira, truly loved his child but didn't seem to do much about Ren being incredibly distant as a parent. The most we see is him asking why she refuses to hold Akito and doesn't seem to react to her referring to their child simply as "the baby" and implying that everyone fusses over the kid enough that she doesn't need to bother. That's not even going into how she bullied Akira into agreeing to raise Akito as a boy regardless of her sex at birth, threatening to get an abortion if he refused. Presumably no one calls Akira out on this because he's the head of the house and incredibly sickly (and Akito adores him because he was the only parent who gave Akito any love).
    • Kyoko was massively abused and eventually disowned by her father while her mother did nothing but fret and wonder how her daughter turned out so poorly and what would the neighbors think.
    • Tohru's grandfather is one of the more sympathetic examples from the manga. He really did love his son Katsuya (Tohru's father), but it's implied he had very little hand in his upbringing because the two rarely saw eye-to-eye. In the present time, he loves Tohru dearly but his poor health means that he has to be cared for by Tohru's aunt and uncle. Realizing he can't do much to protect her from their cruelty and not wanting her to feel trapped, the best he can do is urge her to go somewhere else if there's a place she'd rather be at.
  • In the oneshot manga Goodbye, Eri, Yuta's father is revealed to be this, not having protected Yuta from his mother's emotional abuse. It's shown that she didn't treat him any better than she did their son, so it's likely that she browbeat him into submission before Yuta was even born. Nevertheless, Yuta's father is regretful for not having stood up and does his best to encourage him once she's gone.
  • GTO: 14 Days in Shonan: Seiya Dojima's mother did nothing to protect him from her abusive boyfriend even after he forcibly gave Seiya a full-back tattoo. Onizuka calls her out on this when Seiya almost shoots the guy.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • Shigaraki's mother and maternal grandparents did love him and his sister Hana, but all three adults were too meek to stand up to his father, Kotaro, whenever the man was putting Shigaraki/Tenko outside in the backyard as punishment for playing heroes. They only told Shigaraki not to cry and would try to cheer him up after being punished. After Kotaro hit his son in front of the entire family, his wife and her parents finally had enough of his abusive treatment towards the children and confronted him on the matter, with his wife threatening to leave him and take the kids with her. Unfortunately it was too late, as Tenko's Decay Quirk finally appeared and killed most of his family by accident (but his father's death was intentional). And then All For One shows up and Musutafu, its heroes, and its citizens would pay a heavy price for that family's inaction.
    • Hawks's mother Tomie was more focused on the television being broken rather than stopping his father from hitting him and would beg the man not to leave her. After Hawks's father was arrested, she forced Hawks to steal for them to survive on the streets. Years later, when Dabi came to their house and demanded that she tell him about her family by threatening her, she quickly told him about Hawks's father. Ashamed of her actions, Tomie left home but left a letter and told Hawks how proud she was of him.
    • Rei Todoroki considers herself to be one. Although she hated how her husband treated their youngest son as a tool to surpass both him and All Might and tried to get her husband to acknowledge their three other children, Rei didn't truly help her eldest son when his mental state began to spiral down after being replaced by his younger brother as their father's successor. When she tried to get her eldest son to think about opportunities other than the hero path his father formerly set him on, he called her out on this and reminded her that she was just as responsible for his pain since she knew that his father only wanted to marry her so he could have children with powerful Quirks.
    • Justified with Mr. and Mrs. Aoyama. While they follow All For One's orders and presuade Yuga to keep acting as The Mole within school, they do so only because the villain made it very clear that even the slightest attempt to expose their "alliance" will be discovered and punished severly. During the interrogation, they tell Tsukauchi that All For One at once showed them a body of a dead subordinate to prove that his threat is genuine.
  • In One Piece, Robin's maternal uncle and his wife looked after her while her mother was away on a research expedition. While Robin's uncle is once shown trying to comfort a crying Robin, he doesn't do anything when his wife mistreats Robin. He and his wife go out to celebrate their daughter's birthday, leaving Robin with a note telling her to eat bread for dinner(and not use too much jam), do her chores, and go to bed before they get back.
  • Ouran High School Host Club: Narrowly subverted. At first glance, it seems that Tamaki's father Yuzuru doesn't try to prevent the endless emotional abuse that his son experiences at the hands of Yuzuru's utterly ruthless mother and even goes along with her to stop him from meeting with his sickly mother. He actually opposes his mother. Every single bit. And actually wants Tamaki (and himself, naturally) to be able to live with Anne-Sophie so much that he deposes his mother to become the head of the Suoh Empire. Yuzuru's mother's reaction is priceless.
  • In a particularly dark chapter of Pet Shop of Horrors, a mother fears that she is this even though she has already fled from her violent partner, She has nightmares in which she not only fails to protect her young son, she actually shoves him in front of her after her ex-partner tries to stab her. Ultimately, she's far from spineless - she dies shielding her son from her ex-partner's attack.
  • Reborn! (2004) has Nana Sawada, the main character’s own mother. While she isn’t necessarily a bad parent per se, she doesn’t do much to help ease tensions between her husband and son and often takes her husband’s side instead. She doesn’t even show a lick of concern towards Tsuna’s low self-esteem and the blatant bullying he endures at school either. In the manga, there are even a few moments where she herself says some things that would normally be considered abusive.

    Comic Books 
  • Back to Brooklyn: Bob is horrified at the idea that his brother Paul might have abused his son Michael. Turns out Paul didn't do anything... even at Penny's (Bob's wife) suggestion.

    Fairy Tales 

    Fan Works 
  • All For Luz: Rather than defending her daughter from those who painted her as a problem for her differences, Camila signed her up for Reality Check Summer Camp, a place that was supposed to force Luz to conform to what others deemed "normal". Shigaraki exploits this to convince Luz that her mother is actually a Resentful Guardian who won't even care about the fact that said camp turned out to be a death camp.
  • In At the Edge of Lasg'len, it's revealed that Thranduil's mother never did anything to try and protect her son from his abusive father.
  • Hisashi sums up Masaru Bakugou's character and his impact on Katsuki's life in Conversations with a Cryptid:
    Hisashi: I know that your father was so worthless that your mother had to chase him. That he’s a spineless, pathetic wimp that's at the beck and call of his emotionally abusive wife. That not once in all your years has he ever defended you from her stupidity about strength and weakness, as though she were a chimpanzee frolicking about in the jungle as opposed to a functional human being raising a vulnerable child.
  • Craving the Sky: After Weiss was born with wings, Jacques accused his wife of cheating on him, driving her to alcoholism to cope. Willow has subsequently deluded herself into believing that if Weiss can just get her father to accept her as their daughter, that will magically fix their broken family. Ultimately, she realizes their relationship is irreparable and decides to divorce him.
  • In the Law & Order: UK story Delayed Shock, Matt confides to Alesha that he resents his mother as much as his abusive stepfather because she was a classic example of this.
  • In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, young Witch Rebecka Smith-Rhodes-Stibbons, aged nine, finds herself fighting off a threat from the Dungeon Dimensions. Her father, wizard Ponder Stibbons, is able to follow her there but realises that he can't intervene in the fight, as turning it into a magical battle would blow back on both of them and only make the Things stronger. He is forced to stand on the sidelines as his daughter figures it out for herself (with a little unexpected help) and eventually defeats them on her own initiative.
  • Deconstructed in the Feralnette AU; when Lila got Marinette expelled from school on false charges, her parents did nothing to help her. Didn't protest the expulsion, didn't make any effort to learn the truth about what was going on or clear her name; just had her working extra hours in the bakery until the situation was resolved by others. This only reinforced Marinette's belief that Adults Are Useless and that none of them care enough about her to actually listen to any of her warnings about Lila. For their part, Sabine and Tom recognize that they messed up, but are uncertain how the best way to approach the situation and repair their relationship is.
  • Gladstone Gander in the DuckTales (1987) fanfic Little Brother. He tries to be competent, but old habits die hard, and since he is the luckiest goose in the world who's not used to exerting effort or thinking too hard, he has this problem.
  • Little Kitty on a Roof is set in an Alternate Universe inspired by Gabriel's Lament, wherein Gabriel successfully made his Wish and created a new reality where Emelie never went into her coma. The new Hawkmoth from this world akumatizes Adrien into Chat Blanc, and accuses Emelie of ignoring how her husband was a complete Control Freak who was driving their son to utter despair.
  • The New Retcons: Both of the Pattersons are neglectful parents, but John also turns a blind eye towards Elly's abuse. Such as when she kicks their youngest daughter April out of the house because she's convinced herself that she's not their daughter, but John's hygienist who supposedly has designs on being a homewrecker. He only cares about her behavior insofar as it impacts him and their reputation.
  • Off To The Races: Not only did Masami not do anything to protect her children from her husband, she eventually ran away, leaving the kids with him.
  • Prince Of Heroes turns All Might into an Abusive Parent who physically forced Izuku to ingest his Quirk, caring more about his "legacy" than his son's desires. Inko tries encouraging her husband to give Izuku some space, to little avail. However, Izuku defends her inaction by pointing out that she'd never be able to win a custody battle against the Symbol of Peace. After All Might nearly kills Izuku during his Final Exam, Inko starts standing up to him more.
  • She's Mine Then: While Mirabel's parents are clearly devastated when Alma wants to banish their five-year-old daughter out of paranoia over her not getting a Gift, neither is willing to resist her demands. This infuriates Pepa so much that she steps up to adopt her niece.
  • Comes up somewhat frequently in Star Trek (2009) fanfics, because a widely used plot point is for Kirk to be/have been abused by his stepfather, which requires explaining why his mother never put a stop to it; this trope (usually tied into some underlying explanation having to do with Kirk's father's death) is one fairly common way to do sonote .
  • In The Two Seers, Julieta and Agustín fail to stand up to Alma and prevent her from exiling their daughter Mirabel alongside Bruno for the "high crime" of being a Seer like him. Both consider this to be their greatest failure.
  • Three Can Keep a Secret: Priscilla does nothing to defend her daughter from Preston's abuse. In fact, she is so disengaged that she has practically no presence in their lives at all until Preston murders her.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A rare male example, Eddie Adams/Dirk Diggler's father in Boogie Nights. Despite only a few brief scenes, in the beginning, it's pretty clear that the mother is an alcoholic and emotional abuser, and the father does nothing to stand up for his son.
  • In the Danish film The Celebration, Else Klingenfeldt-Hansen did nothing to prevent her husband's horrific sexual abuse of their twin children, even when, on one occasion, she found him in the act of raping them.
  • In Dead Poets Society, Neil's mother is revealed to be this in her small appearances in the film; while she clearly loves her son, she does not stand up to her husband (a particularly mean Fantasy-Forbidding Father) forcing his life aspirations onto Neil even when she realizes how depressed it makes him.
  • Heavily implied with Rose and Maggie's father in In Her Shoes. He is also a Henpecked Husband who allows their Wicked Stepmother to verbally and psychologically belittle and bully the women from childhood into adulthood, causing the former to believe that she'll never be pretty enough (even humiliating the poor girl at her bridal shower) and the latter to believe that she's stupid due to being illiterate.
  • In Madea's Big Happy Family, this is an alternate way of viewing the mother, Shirley. Although she prides herself on being a decent, single parent who brought up her children to be God-fearing and respectful, the reality is all three of her children have substantial issues. Worst of all is those of eldest daughter Kimberly, who was raped by her Uncle at the age of 13, which culminated in her getting pregnant with her "brother" Byron, who Shirley, instead of pursuing any legal action from it, decides to turn to God and raise the boy as her own, which was withheld from him throughout his upbringing.
  • The Iron Claw: The family's mother, Doris, refuses to take a stand against her husband's abuse or even emotionally connect with her sons in any meaningful way at first. Tellingly, an early scene sees Kevin ask to talk to her about something and she tries to dismiss him with "that's what your brothers are for". She is similarly nonresponsive to him asking her to intervene against Fritz's harsh treatment of Mike. Instead, she uses religion as a band-aid. It doesn't work.
  • In the Bollywood movie Student Of The Year, there are examples from both genders in two of the main characters' families.
    • On Rohan's side, there's his father and older brother who are both emotionally and verbally abusive towards him because he wants to be a musician rather than a businessman like the two of them. Many scenes show how his mother doesn't agree with them, yet she does nothing to stop them. In the scene that first establishes this, Rohan looks towards her in hopes that she'll stand up for him as he's mocked for trying to show interest in the conversation his father and brother are having. When she doesn't act, he gives her a look of anger and resignation before the scene cuts away. Towards the climax of the movie, after he and Abhi have the fight that ends their friendship, the animosity between Rohan and his father comes to literal blows when his father hits him. When Rohan's mother rebukes him, Rohan immediately lays in on her and angrily calls her out for always standing by and doing nothing while he was treated like garbage.
    • On Abhimanyu's side, his aunt (who took him in after his parents died) is shown to treat him as an unwanted guest at best and a freeloader at worst rather than as her nephew, even calling him bad luck when his grandmother is hospitalized, knowing full well how the death of his parents affected him. All Abhimanyu's uncle does is weakly tell her to stop, but it's later implied that he does nothing more than that, according to Abhimanyu, who says he's used to not being listened to and ignored at home.
  • Women Talking: Deconstructed. Mariche's defensive and abrasive demeanor is due to a combination of having young children by her abusive husband and being conditioned to always forgive him for his abuse. In a heated moment, Ona accuses her of doing nothing to educate or protect her sons from this cycle of abuse. Mariche retorts that she doesn't really have a choice in the matter, and Ona doesn't understand her situation as she's not a wife herself.

  • Cyan's mother, Belinda, in The Amy Virus, is this. She hated scamming people with the Good Brain Diet, hated the actual diet itself, and hated the Financial Abuse the blog was doing to Cyan. She wanted to end the blog after the first year, but her husband Daniel kept scaring her into thinking that the scam and the Financial Abuse was the only way for them to make money. It took Cyan finally running away after Daniel's threat to lock her up in an institution if she kept rebelling against him for Belinda to finally stand up to Daniel. She subsequently becomes The Atoner by forcibly divorcing Daniel, taking full custody of Cyan so Daniel can never hurt her again, and publicly revealing the truth about the Good Brain Diet to shut the scam down.
  • In The Cat Ate My Gymsuit, Lily makes weak attempts to stop her husband’s emotional and verbal abuse of Marcy and Stuart, telling them that "Their daddy loves them very much, he just has a hard time showing it", despite the fact that he clearly hates them. She’s also abused by him and drugs herself with tranquilizers to cope. She gets better by the end, openly calling him out and taking night classes with the implication that she plans to leave him in the future.
  • In the Divergent series, Four's mom, Evelyn, escaped from the abusive family life she had and left her hapless son to be abused by his father, Marcus, for over 10 years. She knew that the abuse is going on, but she deliberately never met, comforted, or retook her job as a mom afterward until he was 16 years old. Unlike many examples in the series, though, it's very much called out: the first time that the two reunited, Four proceeded to give her a middle finger and refused to meet her again (though he changed his mind eventually). Tris also doesn't like to be in her company for similar reasons.
  • Eleanor & Park: Sabrina stands by and does nothing while Richie abuses the kids due to her own abuse and codependency.
  • In Ella Enchanted, Ella's father admits to being upset by how she's treated by her stepfamily, but not so much that he's willing to return home to put a stop to it.
  • A Frozen Heart, a tie-in novel to Frozen (2013), reveals that Prince Hans lives in an abusive family, where his father and 11 of his 12 older brothers constantly mock, beat up, and mistreat Hans every day. His mother was very much against this, but years of her husband's cruelty and abuse of everyone have made her terrified, reducing her to an Extreme Doormat who is unable to do anything but give Hans small smiles to acknowledge him, but his brothers pick on him for it. Her reaction to what her youngest son did in Arendelle is never revealed.
  • In the The House of Night series, Zoey's mother is treated as this by both Zoey and her grandmother, who blame her for marrying an abusive man and neglecting her children. Considering the mom was apparently a good parent until her second marriage and her new husband is incredibly controlling of her (and the implication that she's financially dependent on him), this has a few Unfortunate Implications.
  • Peeta's father in The Hunger Games. He's portrayed as a kind and loving man but he is never shown to have intervened when his wife hit their youngest son (and presumably the two older ones as well) nor did he offer any protest when she told Peeta to his face that he had no chance of surviving the Games. The second book of the series implies that she even whipped her children and their father didn't do anything to prevent it.
  • The self-help psychology book If You Had Controlling Parents: How to Make Peace with your Past and Take your place in the World identified such parents as a "Childlike Parent" who "Feeling incapable or needy, Childlike parents offer their children little protection. Childlike parents, woefully uncomfortable with themselves, encourage their children to take care of them, thereby controlling through role-reversal."
  • In Jumper, David's mom runs away from her abusive husband but leaves Davy with him. Davy doesn't blame her, but she believes that she has to make amends for leaving him to face the abuse alone as part of the Alanon step program.
  • In My Sister's Keeper, Brian never seems entirely comfortable with using Anna as a Walking Transplant. Yet he does nothing for 13 years, during which Anna undergoes many painful, invasive surgeries. He seems to be making a stand when she herself sues for medical emancipation though...only to break down on the stand and admit that really, he wants Anna to do what her mother, Sara, wants her to do (presumably because he's terrified that Anna's sister, Kate, will die otherwise).
  • In The Pinballs, Carlie ends up in foster care because her stepfather beat her so badly he gave her a concussion and her mother still won't leave him.
  • In Stone Cold by Robert Swindells, the main character's mother allows her new boyfriend, Vince, to chase both of her children out of the house. Her older daughter moves in with her boyfriend after an implied proposition/assault by Vince. Her son, known only as "Link", fares even worse - Vince subjects him to constant insults (apparently trying to get the sixteen-year-old to leave), then locks him out of the house one night only to physically attack him upon his return, claiming to be enraged that Link "worried his mother" by staying out all night. He then leaves home, becoming homeless on the streets of Bradford. His mother clearly knows that Vince is abusive...but never once defends her children. This eventually leads to a disastrous Christmas party where Vince viciously berates and mocks Link...while his mother and sister stand by and say nothing. In fact, their Christmas gift to him is a sleeping bag — confirmation that, rather than rescuing him, they're effectively abandoning him and expecting him to remain homeless. Link decides to take his chances living on the street in London rather than living anywhere near Vince.
  • In Jackie French's Summerland 1996 (not to be confused with several works of the same name), Bridget's mother is the in-denial variant of the spineless parent. She knows her husband is dangerous and at least makes an attempt to get her daughter out of the way before he arrives home, but she is ultimately always making excuses for him: if only she were a better wife, if only Bridget would be good and not make him so angry... Eventually, Bridget stands up for herself and leaves home to seek the safety of her grandparents' house. Her mum supports this decision, yet her main concern is that Bridget doesn't let them know what's going on.
  • In Where Are the Children?, Nancy was a downplayed example when it came to Peter and Lisa, and she’s portrayed more sympathetically than is typical. Carl had initially convinced Nancy his authoritarian parenting was best for the family, but she became increasingly aware that the way her husband treated their children was abnormal and harmful. Despite this, she often struggled to stand up to him, as she was also being abused and controlled by Carl (not to mention she’d married him when she was barely an adult herself and had reason to suspect he'd murdered her mother). When she began to suspect Carl was sexually abusing Lisa (and possibly Peter, too), she realised she needed to get herself and the children away from Carl, starting by insisting on making a doctor’s appointment for Lisa; unfortunately, Lisa and Peter were murdered before any genuine intervention could happen, something she still feels immense guilt over.
  • In the backstory of Worm, Taylor's father was so busy mourning the death of his wife that he never noticed that his only child was being subjected to a psychological terror campaign masterminded by her former best friend (the daughter of his best friend) for two years, leading to her Triggering with insect control powers and eventually becoming a supervillain.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Mentalist: In one episode, a child molester is found murdered, and he and Lisbon had a history, she being the one who had previously busted him. She and Patrick Jane interview the deceased man's current girlfriend, who happened to have a daughter within the late predator's "preferred range". Jane uses his psychological know-how to size up the girl, and says he doesn't believe the girl was abused. The girlfriend, the girl's mother, crows triumphantly about it to Lisbon, saying it's proof Lisbon was wrong about the man, until Jane asks if the man had been asking to take the girl out on a camping trip, just the two of them. The woman is speechless, and Jane tells her that if she cares about her daughter at all, she needs to find a better class of man to date.
  • In Quincy, M.E. episode "A Good Smack in the Mouth", a mother fails to protect her son from an abusive boyfriend. Even the boy's teacher and doctor believe the excuses for all the injuries.
  • In Roseanne, the titular character and her sister were beaten as children by their father. When discussing this as adults, Jackie notes that whenever it happened, their Mom wasn't any better and would just go into the kitchen and wash dishes until it was over. Roseanne points out that their Mom's general approach to any problem was "ignore it and it'll go away."
  • Veronica Mars: Logan's mother Lynn is very aware that her husband Aaron is a violent abuser who beats his son with a belt. She tries to ignore it by drinking extensively. She later commits suicide after Logan threatens to kill Aaron.

  • In The Tarot Cafe, one story has an alchemist trying to woo a heartless princess with her promising to love him if he can make her laugh. He creates a very humanlike jester "doll" for this purpose, which the princess starts torturing for her own amusement. The alchemist realizes what's happening to the jester and is horrified, but he meets with Pamela uncertain of what to do. He eventually chooses to side with the jester, who feels genuine love for his creator, rather than with the princess.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • David's oldest son, Amnon, rapes his half-sister Tamar, which is discovered by Tamar's other brother, Absalom. We are told that David is furious about this...but not that Amnon suffers any sort of punishment. It's Absalom who refuses to speak to Amnon for years and eventually kills him. Now David gets around to acting, in that he nearly kills Absalom, but he is eventually convinced not to. Presumably this all contributes to Absalom's Face–Heel Turn.
    • I Samuel 2 features Eli, the elderly priest and judge of Israel, who neglected or failed to discipline his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, and as a result, his adult sons extorted raw meat from the ones bringing the offering when the fat was supposed to be burned off (Leviticus 3:3-5), and to make matters worse, they slept with the women who assembled at the tabernacle's entrance. By the time Eli reproves them, they ignore his warnings; the situation isn't helped by Eli's age, which was about 80-something to 90-something years old. A prophet comes along warning Eli that his sons would be slain in battle and that Eli's sins would not be atoned for; instead, Eli's adoptive apprentice, Samuel, becomes the next High Priest and leader of Israel.

    Public Service Announcements 
  • One of the Talking Helps it Stop NSPCC ads features a girl who is physically abused by her father. When the abuse starts, you can hear her mother say (in an apathetic tone) "Leave her alone", but she never intervenes.

  • Cinderella's Father in Into the Woods is just enough of a character to ignore the abuse she suffers at the hands of her Stepmother and Stepsisters. He'd be window dressing if not for the fact that she addresses him directly as he accompanies the others to the Prince's ball. He brushes her off but doesn't offer any abuse of his own.
  • Spring Awakening: In "The Dark I Know Well", Martha implies this about her mother
    You say, "Time for bed, now, child"
    Mom just smiles that smile
    Just like she never saw me

    Video Games 
  • Persona 5: Kamoshida is a Creepy Gym Coach at Shujin Academy who sexually abuses the female students. Many of the parents of the students are aware of this, but tolerate it because partly because Shujin is a very prestigious school that can guarantee its graduates a good future alongside the fact that Kamishida himself is a famous Olympic athlete with a lot of powerful connections.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Cinderella Phenomenon, King Genaro didn't do much to protect his daughter, Princess Lucette, against the abuse she suffered in her childhood. This was because he feared the abuser wouldn't let him see Lucette anymore if he tried to intervene.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: Zigzagged with Willow Schnee. While she does love her children, her despair at discovering her husband Jacques was a Gold Digger led her to become an alcoholic and barely present in her children's lives, too trapped in her own helplessness to stop Jacques from abusing them. However, she has also been secretly recording Jacques's activities in the manor for her and her children's safety, and she acknowledges the role she played in creating the abusive environment they live in when she points out to Weiss that her brother Whitley hates her and wants nothing to do with her because she left him all alone with two terrible parents.

    Web Comics 
  • Betty Sri'Vastra of Friendly Hostility appears to be the source of Collin's woes, but later comics indicate that she's actually trying to keep her upwardly-mobile, conservative husband happy by keeping Collin in line...and perhaps, acts as a buffer between the harsher personality of Jerry Sri'Vastra and their son. She recognises Collin's discontent, and when she discovers that Collin is gay, she doesn't tell her husband for fear that he won't let her see her son again. She won't stand up to Jerry, but she still doesn't want to lose her son.
  • Khaos Komix: The Reveal in Jamie's story is that his mother, in addition to being emotionally and physically abusive herself, knew about his sexual abuse as a young child by a family friend but did nothing because it would have made her look bad. He immediately cuts all ties with her.

    Western Animation 
  • BoJack Horseman:
    • The show implies Butterscotch was mostly this. When he was home, he was either indifferent or dismissive, with that one time on Father's Day when BoJack gave the "wrong" answer to the Panama Canal question where he slapped him. Other than that, he did really nothing to offset any of Beatrice's mistreatment of their son.
    • While Diane can attest to the fact that her brothers were basically sheep mindlessly joining in the abuse and her father one of the main ringleaders, she doesn't mention her mother at all in any specific manner of abuse; e.g. using "my parents" as a form of speech to refer to them, heavily implying Ma's greater crime was standing still while the rest of the family abused Diane and recriminating her when she attempted to fight back or do something about her life. Indeed during her visit, Ma Nguyen never really verbally assaults her or humiliates her in any way, just sitting in the background and sarcastically putting her down or reacting with indifference to most things her children say or do, at no point raising her finger to help her and siding with the rest when Diane tries to complain.
    • BoJack offhandedly mentioned that, one time in 8th grade, his mother forced him to be driven back home from a school choir recital, with the pianist, who "liked to tickle a lot more than just the ivories", because he botched his solo. When he returned home unscathed, BoJack's mother simply used it as fuel for another insult, dismissively suggesting that must be mean no one wants him.
  • In The Boondocks episode "The Color Ruckus", Uncle Ruckus's mother, Bunny Ruckus, was definitely one of these. Although she did love her children and cared about them, she did very little to stop her husband Mister Ruckus from regularly beating the tar out of Uncle when he was a little kid, usually doing nothing more than yelling out "LORD HAVE MERCY, MY BABY!" in impotent protest. Even though she was horrified to see Mister literally throwing Uncle out of their home and did try to prevent him from doing so, for some reason, she still stayed with her husband and didn't rescue her lost son. Overall, Bunny was well-meaning but utterly worthless as a guardian.
  • In Daria, Jake had a Hilariously Abusive Childhood (mostly psychological, it seems) from his now-deceased father, "Mad-Dog" Morgendorffer. One episode has his mother Ruth visit and admit that she wishes that she had stood up to Mad-Dog, both for Jake and for herself. (A tie-in book also includes a bitter letter that Jake sent to his father, with a parenthetical note to Ruth saying that he doesn't blame her because he knows that she could never stand up to him.)
  • Family Guy: In "Peter Assment," when Lois tries to tell Peter that a woman can't sexually harass a man, Meg tells them about how her chemistry teacher constantly rubbed her shoulders the one day that she didn't wear a bra, and that he did awful things to her. While it is acknowledged, since this is Meg, Peter and Lois don't seem to care very much, and continue their conversation as if nothing happened.
  • In Gravity Falls, Stan and Ford's mother, Caryn, seems to have cared more about him than her husband Filbrick—she calls him a "free spirit" when other people just put him down, and bonus materials refer to her as a "caring mother and kleptomaniac." That said, she wasn't able to do anything to keep Filbrick from kicking him out, and, as far as we know, she didn't keep in contact with him afterwards.
  • Alador from The Owl House is not as actively malicious or abusive as his wife Odalia, so much as complicit in whatever she does. Aside from helping her blackmail Amity into dropping Willow as a friend as a young child, he supports her bid to expel Luz, Gus, and Willow despite lacking her enthusiasm, allows her to nearly kill Luz in a weapons demonstration, and only stands up for Amity when she defends Luz on Pragmatic Villainy grounds. As the series progresses, Alador is revealed to be isolated from his children by his work in Odalia’s company, resulting in him being kept in the dark about things such as her being involved with the Big Bad. Over time, he starts rebuilding his relationships with his daughters and son and the series ending heavily implies that Alador left Odalia.
  • In The Simpsons, Marge would often only offer token resistance to the abuse Bart suffered, acknowledging that it was happening but never really doing anything about it. This is especially true when it came to the Parental Favoritism shown to Lisa. Homer was able to easily convince her to consider Bart a lost cause at age six once they discovered that Lisa was a Child Prodigy.
  • Subverted in South Park with Cartman and his mother, where it is in fact the child who is the source of the abuse. Cartman's mother has shown on occasion that she clearly disapproves of her son's sadistic and cruel behavior, but she's such an enormous pushover that the most she usually does in response is to politely ask him to stop. In the season ten episode "Tsst," it's revealed that her enabling is a result of her having no other people in her life who care about her enough to spend time with her, and she uses her son to fill the void, spoiling him in the process. Completely averted in Season 25, as she has finally had enough of Cartman's shenanigans.