Bludgeoned. Bloody. Burned and bruised.

Nov. 17, 2009, in Florida — a day Audrey Mabrey vividly remembers when her estranged husband bludgeoned her with a hammer before he lit her on fire.

She told her story Tuesday in the American News, and to an Aberdeen audience during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Often, there is a sad silence surrounding domestic violence. A silence that results in screams for those involved. A silence that too often ends in the most violent way after a string of silent violent acts.

For Mabrey, 80 percent of her body was covered in burns from that horrific day. She spent three months and one day in the hospital.

Like so many other domestic abuse cases, for those looking from the outside in, nothing seemed wrong in Mabrey's life, other than the normal day-to-day troubles we all encounter.

"If you talked to someone about our marriage they would tell you that he worshipped the ground I walked on," Mabrey said.

Mabrey said no domestic violence story is greater than any other.

Victims — survivors — sometimes downplay their situations, especially to Mabrey, often telling her, "My story isn't as bad as yours."

But it is.

"Trauma cannot be measured — period," Mabrey said.

We agree. Each domestic violence story is unique, disturbing and troubling in its own way. And the seemingly simple solution of "turn the abuser in" is never that simple, but a complex, twisted compilation of lives involved.

Mabrey was in Aberdeen for an event for the Safe Harbor crisis shelter. Our community and this region is blessed to have a facility such as Safe Harbor and others like it.

And that goes for the people who work at those facilities, as well. People who lovingly, caringly and expertly are taking care of fellow humans in crisis.

Domestic violence comes in many forms, but in the end, it is always wrong.

We've said it before from experts and domestic abuse online sites, but the best way to help those suffering domestic violence is to:

— Listen.

— Believe them.

— Don't judge, and respect their decisions.

— Encourage and support them.

— Remind the person being abused how brave they are being in telling you their story.

If you have questions, places such as Safe Harbor have answers. The agency lists these numbers and website as part of a 24-hour help line:

— Toll free: 888-290-2935.

Domestic violence is never the answer to resolve conflict. There is no excuse for it.


Mabrey suggests that we teach our children about healthy relationships.

She said sex education is being taught in schools and domestic violence is being defined, but no one is teaching youth what a healthy relationship is, she said.

"You don't just preach about not wanting war. You preach about peace," Mabrey said.

It makes sense in a subject that seems senseless but happens all too often here and everywhere else.

The silence is truly deafening.

American News (Aberdeen, South Dakota), Oct. 11.