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Audrey Mabrey, Cindy Roberts speak in Tampa for National Crime Victims' Rights Week

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Published Apr. 24, 2012

TAMPA

Cindy Roberts doesn't like the word "victim."

It conjures up images of someone who's weak and defenseless, she said.

"We're not weak," the widow of slain Tampa police Officer Mike Roberts told a crowd Monday. "But our situation can leave us feeling weakened."

Speaking at a National Crime Victims' Rights Week event in Tampa, she and domestic violence victim Audrey Mabrey each thanked the advocates who helped them through lengthy legal proceedings.

"Being a crime victim can be daunting, and very scary," Roberts said.

Florida Attorney Pam Bondi lauded Hillsborough's partnerships, pointing out that even Hillsborough Public Defender Julianne Holt, whose office represents accused people, was at the event. So were prosecutors, law enforcement and counselors from Hillsborough's Victims Assistance Program, which assigns an advocate to each crime victim.

Mabry's counselor was Margaret Laing.

"She did everything for me," Mabrey said. "She was there when I had snot coming out of my nose, with a tissue."

Mabry's estranged husband attacked her with a hammer, doused her with gasoline and set her on fire in 2009.

Since then, she's decided to transform from victim to survivor. And since then, her attacker has been sentenced to life in prison.

But she had something else on her mind Monday: The families of the perpetrators also can be victims, she said, and they also need support.

Mabrey's brother was convicted of double homicide in Texas and has been on death row for 13 years, she said.

Their mother could have used the same support Mabrey received. It'd be great, she said, if Hillsborough could get funding for additional counselors.

"It can be extremely devastating for both sides," she said.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3433.