When Susan Still married her longtime boyfriend, Ulner Lee Still, in 1989, she never could have imagined the brutality that would become a part of her everyday life. For years, Susan says that her husband verbally abused her, and after a decade together, it turned physical. The abuse happened behind closed doors -- and also in front of the couple's two sons. In fact, one Sunday afternoon in 2003, Ulner began to berate Susan in front of both boys and even forced their 13-year-old to videotape it.
During the first 40 minutes of the video, Susan's husband hurls insults -- he calls her "stupid" 23 times and "heifer" 28 times, among other dehumanizing names -- and threatens her with physical violence. Then, the threats take a terrifying turn as Ulner punches, kicks and slaps his wife repeatedly for another 10 minutes.
WARNING: The video is disturbing and difficult to watch. Part of it may be viewed here.
Four years after the horrifying experience was captured on camera, Susan appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and shared her story. By then, Susan had found the courage to leave Ulner, who was prosecuted and found guilty of 12 counts of assault and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. He was sentenced to 36 years in prison. On "The Oprah Show," Susan said that she felt like a different woman, finally free.
It's now been more than a decade since the graphic video was taken, and "Oprah: Where Are They Now?" recently caught up with Susan and her younger son Dazmann, now 20, to see how they've been doing. Dazmann says that he hasn't spoken with his father since leaving with his mother all those years ago but feels that a conversation would be necessary in order for him to find closure.
"I want to talk with him about a lot," Dazmann says in the above video. "I've definitely considered going back to see him..."
"Are you conflicted about your feelings about him?" Oprah asks.
"When I was younger, yes. Not so much now," Dazmann answers. "I have an opinion of him because of his actions and what I know he did. But I don't really know him as a human being, and that is my next step."
He's quick to clarify that this doesn't mean he condones how his father treated his mother. "Not that I'm saying that what he did was OK or anything," he says. "Or necessarily that I've even forgiven him."
"Have you?" Oprah asks.
"I don't think I even personally could until I saw him," Dazmann says. "I really don't know."
Susan, on the other hand, says that she forgave her husband as a part of her own healing process. "I had to a long time ago, in order for myself to be able to move on and begin to rebuild a life," she says.
Even during the abusive years of her marriage, Susan hoped that her relationship could return to the way it once was, long before the violence. It's a mentality familiar to many abuse victims. "As a victim... you get to a point where your abuser totally does something to totally overpower you. They also make you believe that it's your fault. They brainwash to believe that we are the problem," she says. "The thing is that they don't come into the relationship like that. They come into the relationship as this really great person. So we, as victims, remember the good times. We remember that those times existed; so, if we just fix ourselves, it will go back to the way it was." ]
Susan now knows that this never would have happened and says that, today, she is proud of the woman she has become. Though she admits that she still fears the day that her husband is released from prison, Susan continues to focus on her mission to raise awareness about domestic violence.
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