Destiny Mabry (129799)

When asked about advocating for women, especially victims and survivors of domestic violence, Destiny Mabry, 25, responds, “I advocate for the human race, men and women. Even though the majority of domestic violence victims are women, why can’t we support men as well? We both deserve equal empowerment.”

The response is reflective of who Mabry is—a person caring for everyone and looking at the whole puzzle, not just at the piece that relates mostly to her. A graduate of the State University of New York at Albany, Mabry has accomplished personal milestones but found her purpose in sharing her story.

After being in an abusive relationship, Mabry knew she wanted to support women who were going through what she went through, but her relentless and very active advocacy came only after tragedy hit home. “I did advocacy in 2013, but it was very secretive,” she says, because of her wanting to keep her abuse hidden. “After losing my sister to it, this was nothing to keep behind closed doors anymore.”

In January 2014, Mabry’s sister, Kia, 28, was murdered by her husband, who also murdered their children, Kyler, 3, and Syrai, 1. He took his own life as well. The news of the death of her sister, nephew and niece left Mabry in a state of shock, and changed her life forever.

Most people could not imagine going through that kind of pain, and at a time that Mabry could have let the pain consume her, she used it to make a change. In her words, she “turned pain into power.”

“I didn’t realize I was a leader until a year ago,” says Mabry. The impact of losing family to horrific violence became her motivation, and since then, Mabry has been marching, speaking and appearing on television programs, such as MSNBC’s “News Nation With Tamron Hall.” Mabry says the open talk about domestic violence and abuse is refreshing and a step in the right direction, because the subject is still very taboo. “It’s so hard to talk about domestic violence when no one wants to talk about it,” she says. “To me, it’s going to take a deprogramming of everyone’s mind. It takes a mental reconstruction of both men and women.”

For Mabry, identifying abuse is one of the first things that people have to do to change things, and she reminds people that domestic abuse is not limited to physical abuse. “You have to listen, you have to listen,” she says. “Pay attention to the signs. Domestic violence is verbal, sexual, financial. To me, domestic violence is classified as control. Control is the abuse.”

In her own past relationship, Mabry admits it was hard for her to see herself as someone who was going through a domestically abusive situation, because the control was in the mental, emotional and sexual forms. “When I was 23,” she shares, “I went to the doctor and filled out a depression survey, and my score was a 24 out of 27.” The counselor then suggested that she go to domestic violence counseling, where it first dawned on her that she was being abused when she said it out loud at the session.

“It had to happen to me for me to learn about it,” says Mabry. “I didn’t see domestic violence as something to happen to people like me—young college grads. But domestic violence doesn’t discriminate.”

One of Mabry’s main goals is to empower people and have them realize that self-confidence is a key in avoiding abusive people. “Everything starts in the mind,” she explains. “It’s all in your mentality. If you see positive, you will reflect positive. I was mad at myself for allowing someone to abuse me like that. But now I can see I was human. I didn’t have the awareness and self-love that I have now.”

Although Mabry is taking domestic violence head-on, a few years ago, she had no idea she would be doing this. “This was involuntary,” she acknowledges. “If I did not become who I am today, I probably would have self-destructed.”

Teens and young adults identify with Mabry as a young woman, and she uses her testimony to let them know that they can be where she is. She also holds everyone responsible when it comes to domestic abuse, encouraging empathy. “Listen, don’t judge,” she says. “Never think that it can’t happen to you.” As for those still going through the struggle, Mabry sends a reminder: “You are not alone. There is always help out there.”