Behind Closed Doors, Abuse Caught on Tape

Father forces his child to videotape as he savagely abuses his wife.

ByABC News
December 16, 2008, 8:42 AM

July 31, 2007 — -- This story originally aired on October 26th, 2006

In a tree-lined neighborhood in upstate New York, Susan, 47, a mother of three, never imagined her life would spin out of control.

But she found herself in a marriage that escalated from controlling to violent -- as she says she became a victim of domestic violence.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 5.3 million incidents of intimate partner violence occur each year in the United States.

But Susan's case is unique because her abuse was documented in a disturbing 51-minute home videotape.

Four years ago, Susan's husband ordered their 13-year-old son to videotape his mother being verbally and physically assaulted.

The chilling tape took a look behind closed doors into the brutal reality of domestic violence.

Susan told her story for the first time to ABC News' Diane Sawyer.

Susan was just 18 when she first met and fell in love with Ulner, a 26-year-old man she saw on stage.

Ulner was a bass guitarist in a popular local band, while Susan had just finished her first year of college.

They started dating immediately. Eventually, they got married and started a family, with Susan working at a health-insurance company.

At first, Ulner was just controlling, not so different from her own father. But, the more she complied, the more he demanded.

"The controlling was absolutely there from the beginning. Without me recognizing it," Susan said.

The physical abuse started more than 10 years into the marriage, when, according to Susan, she forgot an item at a nearby grocery store.

"He hurt me," Susan said. "He hurt me badly. I just couldn't believe it. It's like you're almost outside your body watching and saying, 'This can't be happening.'"

Susan said that Ulner cut her off from her father and her family for many years, leaving her isolated with no one to talk to, and completely under his control.

In 2002, the family started struggling financially, and Susan returned to work at a new job.

The only escape she had from her controlling and abusive home life was her new friend and boss, Lynne Jasper.