ATLANTIC CITY — Survivor Valeria Marcus believes there needs to be more conversations about domestic violence.
“We need these conversations every week. We need them privately, we need them in the church, we need them everywhere, and we need to talk about it because it’s causing a lot of problems in the community,” said Marcus, who is also a survivor of child abuse.
“We need to speak up on behalf of children, kids need help now, mothers need help now. They can’t wait until someone gets killed, someone turns to drugs and alcohol forever.”
Marcus, of Atlantic City, said the more domestic violence is talked about between survivors and witnesses, the more help there will be for victims.
Marcus led a panel Friday titled “Let’s Talk About It” that was meant to bring more attention to the issue and encourage discussion.
The panel coincided with Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states that nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. That accounts only for physical abuse, and does not include financial, emotional or other types of domestic abuse.
Panelists at the Atlantic City Free Public Library included the Rev. Raymond Hollis Jr., social services coordinator at Better Tomorrows; Donna D’Andrea, violence intervention program coordinator at Avanzar; Dr. Naomi Jones, senior director of outpatient services at Jewish Family Service; Tamu Lane, director of social justice programming at Avanzar; and Atlantic City police Detective Ann McGlynn.
“When we see something, we have to say it, we can’t turn a blind eye to it,” Hollis said. “If you are here and maybe you have been abused or you might even be in it right now, you might know somebody who is going through something. We have help.”
Lane shared the story of when she was raped at age 8 and the effects that had on her life, including in her early 20s when she began a relationship with an emotionally and physically abusive man who became the father of her daughter.
She also shared that being abused led to her own abusive behaviors in her first marriage.
About 25 people attended the discussion, and several participated in a question-and-answer session after. Grace Elliott, of Absecon and formerly Atlantic City, said she wanted to attend the panel because of her own experiences with domestic violence.
“I lived through all of this,” Elliott said, including witnessing the abuse of her mother, siblings, friends and son.
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She said outsiders must be more compassionate toward those suffering abuse because there are so many reasons why they do not leave, including fear, finances and mistrust of the system, including of police.
“This is why a lot of people are raised not to say anything,” Elliott said.
Gloria McWhorter, of Atlantic City, said she encouraged her husband, Cliff, to attend Friday because of the struggles he endured in his childhood with an abusive stepfather.
McWhorter, who is black, said the conversation is particularly important in minority communities because there is a culture of silence.
She wished more people would have come to Friday’s event.
“There’s so many people who are suffering in silence, but at some point in time, you have to come out and share your story,” McWhorter said. “Knowledge is power.”