"Children are hurt even if they're not hit," she says.
Susan says she believes her youngest child was less affected by her ex-husband's abuse than her oldest son. "[Counselors] told me that he was brainwashed—similar to the brainwashing of a [prisoner of war]," she says. "[They said] it was going to take years and years and years of intense therapy in order to bring him out of it."
If Susan could do it all over again, she says she wouldn't have tried to keep her family together for so many years. "I want to tell [women] that staying for the sake of your children is absolutely not the thing to do," she says. "What ultimately is going to happen is that your child is going to grow up and tell you they wish you would have left."
After seeing her sons' speak out, Susan says she's proud that they're able to express their feelings, but she still feels guilty for the pain her abuse has caused. "I feel so hurt for what they had to see and go through and experience," she says.
Instead of living in the past, Susan is now trying to set a positive example for her sons. "The best thing that I could do for them was to live well now and show them the healthy way to live," she says. "In time, they see that. They see the person you become."