CLEARWATER — Looking back, the cycle of domestic violence in Audrey Mabrey's life is obvious. As a child, she said, she watched her mother endure abuse at the hands of her father and became a victim herself as her brother mimicked the behavior.
As an adult, Mabrey found herself in two abusive relationships. Her most recent one ended violently in 2009, when she says her estranged husband, Christopher Hanney, beat her, doused her with gasoline, then lit it with a candle, causing burns to 80 percent of her body.
But Mabrey, 28, told about 400 attendees at the Faces of Domestic Violence luncheon Thursday at Clearwater's Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church that she is determined to turn her ordeal into a positive situation and help others recognize the signs of abuse.
"It is oftentimes a silent issue, so it is important to encourage other women to not only get out of it but to advocate," Mabrey said.
The luncheon drew church and business leaders, police officials, civic organization representatives and domestic violence survivors. Among them was Detective Sgt. Sheila Waters-Borland, head of the Clearwater Police Department's Crimes Against Children and Families division. She said her office investigates about 30 domestic violence battery cases a month.
Waters-Borland said victims typically don't report violence the first six or so times and are unlikely to prosecute before the 11th time. That's why, she said, it's important to educate community members — including family members, friends and neighbors — about the signs of domestic abuse.
Mabrey detailed the lies, threats and other signs she ignored throughout her courtship and marriage to Hanney and the red flags that counseling has since taught her to recognize.
People gasped as Mabrey accused Hanney of sexually assaulting her before bludgeoning her with a hammer and setting her afire. Hanney is set to stand trial Jan. 23.
Mabrey, who has two children, spent three months in the hospital and has since enrolled at Hillsborough Community College in hopes of becoming a psychologist or psychology professor.