By Marie Gilmore

Audrey Mabrey is a mom. She packs lunches, attends school functions, hangs out with friends and lives a typical, suburban life of a single mom of two.

But for Mabrey, her days are a little different as she endures stares, questions and strange looks as she goes about her day.

But, ask Mabrey what happened, be open and frank, and she will tell you. As a victim of domestic violence, she is the survivor of a brutal attack that she never should have survived.

Five years ago, her husband attacked her in a jealous rage, beat her, doused her in gasoline and lit her on fire. She was burned with second and third degree burns on 80 percent of her body and with most of her face, arms and upper body scarred, she might not have ever shown herself publicly again.

But Mabrey found an inner peace and strength, and she made important choices to get to where she is today. Still a mom, still a survivor, still bearing the scars of a brutal attack, but beautiful nonetheless and with a message to other women in domestic violence situations. Mabrey is now an inspirational speaker who has appeared on national television and on Dr. Phil and is writing a book.

Recently in October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness month, she spoke to the Woemtec Business Networking Group at Buckhorn Country Club in Valrico, and her message inspired the audience.

“I made a choice to live,” said Mabrey who said that we all have a choice every day. In fact, she credits five choices she made to her confidence and empowerment of today.

“I made five choices,” she describes. “I made a choice to be strong, to accept myself, to have faith in God, to forgive my husband and I made a choice to be happy.”

Mabrey has proven to be one of the greatest domestic violence advocates in the United States because of her story of survival and passion for provoking social change worldwide. She has been featured on a multitude of national and international magazines and has appeared on Anderson Cooper, I Survived, and Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry? to name a few.  Mabrey has been recognized as Tampa Bay’s Lightning Community Hero, where she was given the opportunity to award $50,000 to two charities of her choice.

Mabrey and her two boys continue to live in the area. Her husband Christopher Hanney, a retired NYPD Detective, is now serving a life sentence plus 50 years for the attack.