Valeria Marcus ‘81 is tired of the silence. She is pushing to get more people to be aware of abuse against children, and to speak up when they see it.
“There was a lot of child abuse and domestic violence when I was growing up,” said the Atlantic City native. “No one did anything about it. It was silent.”
Marcus is a survivor. She saw her mother being abused physically and emotionally by her father, and she was beaten and sexually abused by him as well.
“Since I came back in 2013 from North Carolina, I’ve been trying to make a difference,” she said.
Marcus organized a training seminar in Atlantic City earlier this year that focused on child abuse awareness. She also celebrated with Mayor Frank Gilliam as he proclaimed the month of April National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Marcus said the abuse by her father began when she was as young as 18 months old, and it continued for years. It wasn’t until she was in high school that the effects of abuse became more apparent. She had been an A student most of her life, then her grades started falling.
“I probably had PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome),” she said. “They didn’t think kids could have PTSD like people in combat. You never forget (the abuse), you remember it the rest of your life.”
Marcus kept her pain inside, for the most part, until she attended Moore. She studied photography, and for her senior thesis she took photographs of boys at the Northern Home for Children in Philadelphia, a facility for children with behavioral issues. Marcus said many of the boys had been abused.
“I put in my thesis paper that I was an abused child, too,” she said. “Then they found out.” A beloved professor, Robert Cohen, directed Marcus to her first female therapist, and paid for the session.
“I really do believe that if I had not come to Moore, I don’t know what would have happened to me,” she said. “Moore saved my life.”
Marcus researched and studied the physical, emotional and mental toll abuse has on children after leaving Moore. She began actively advocating against child abuse and domestic violence 17 years ago after a relative confided that she had been sexually assaulted by her father. “I was really angry,” she said.
In 2014, she began holding child abuse seminars to educate the community, including teachers, church leaders and police, on what they should look for to identify an abused child.
The Press of Atlantic City last fall featured Marcus on the front page in an article on domestic and child abuse. The prominence of the story initially surprised her, but it had the effect she wanted.
“I didn’t want to go to church, but the moment I stepped in, people were talking and asking questions,” she said. “Older women came forward and told their story. We are speaking about the thing we didn’t have liberty to speak about at that time.”
ART IS HEALING
Marcus does more oil painting now than photography. She loves the smoothness of the paint and how it can be layered and textured. She also likes making collages and sculptures. Being an artist has helped her cope with her past.
“When you are doing art, you don’t think about anything else,” she said. “It takes you to another world.” Her other-worldly colorful abstract paintings most recently were displayed in a solo show, Valeria Marcus: The World’s Uncertainty, at the Noyes Gallery at Stockton’s Seaview Resort in Galloway Township, N.J.
Her art is not the only mark she wants to make on the world. She wants others to join her voice, and not be silent anymore.
“I want to tell as much as possible,” she said. “I want kids to be outspoken, I want someone to hear them. I want anyone who hears me speak to go talk to someone, seek therapy. I’m going to keep talking until I die. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing til I’m dead.”