Marcelle “Marcie” Jonea Gerald was just a teen when she died. One day after celebrating her 15th birthday, she was brutally beaten and sexually assaulted in January 2014. Devastated, depressed and traumatized, she received counseling from a mental health facility in Matteson and attended a new high school.
“She had been an honor roll student at Homewood-Flossmoor High School. She was a member of the Oak Forest Rainbow Girls. After the assault, she wouldn’t go anywhere by herself. She would scrub herself raw. She just couldn’t take it,” her mother, Elizabeth Gerald, told the Chicago Sun Times. She had dreams of attending Harvard School of Law.
The perpetrator, Roger Denson, an alleged gang member, pleaded guilty to criminal sexual assault and was sentenced to 8 1/2 years in prison. He is also required to register as a sex offender for 10 years.
In July 2015, sadly, Marcie succeeded at her second suicide attempt. “She came downstairs sometime after midnight where I was on the couch and she just laid in my arms and told me how much she loved me,” says Gerald.
“I heard a snoring type sound and thought she was sleeping. Around 6 a.m. I tried to wake her up and I couldn’t.”
On Friday, July 15, 2016, the MJG Movement and The Lil’ Gentlemen Den will present the Breaking the Silence Gala from 6 to 10 p.m. to celebrate the life of Gerald.
“The Marcie Jonea Gerald (MJG) Movement began in December 2015 in memory of my daughter Marcie whom committed suicide due to depression following a brutal sexual assault attack. Sexual assault victims and their families receive little support and live with a stigma and shame that contributes to short-term and long-term emotional mental impacts. Marcie’s death has brought national attention to address sexual violence and suicide amongst children. Her death has ignited our community to come together, discuss the facts and discuss solutions to address this issue. Members of our MJG Planning Team/Advisors include mental health professionals, judges, survivors, educators and non-profit sector child advocacy organizations.
“The MJG Movement is a Children’s Advocacy Movement dedicated to serving as a resource for children and families that are victims of sexual abuse and suicide. The MJGM most importantly seeks to prevent and provide educational resources to youth to avoid becoming prey to predators. To maximize outreach efforts, the MJGM Team partners with organizations that serve to improve the quality of life for children. We selected the RULER Approach which was developed at Yale University at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. The RULER Approach uses the power of emotions to increase and improve learning, decision making, creativity, relationships and health. The structure of the RULER Approach promotes the integration of social and emotional learning that’s scientifically based to enhance soft skills.
“The activities and lessons are implemented with the flexibility of infusing existing curriculums to create a positive learning environment and experience. Ultimately, our goal is to serve as a voice and resource to youth and their families in breaking the silence, stigmatization and shame of sexual assault and suicide. With the understanding that talking about sexual assault and suicide is a serious and sensitive subject matter, parents are welcome to attend and inquire about all content presented to their children.”
Read what else Gerald has to say.
How do you cope following the loss of your daughter?
While there are tough days, helping others that have experienced a loss due to suicide is helping me heal.
Do you have a therapist?
Are you religious?
If so, what is your religion?
I am a Christian.
Do you seek the help of leaders in the ministry?
No, I do not.
How many siblings does your daughter have?
How are they adjusting/coping?
It’s been tough. He will never forget that day. We do our best to comfort each other.
What do you remember most about your daughter?
Her beautiful smile.
Do you dream about her?
Sometimes I do.
Does she speak to you in your dream?
I do feel her presence.
You’re coming up on the one-year anniversary since her death. How will you spend your time remembering/honoring her?
I am hosting a gala in her name and hosting an outreach program called Marcie’s Message that will teach children ages five to 16 social awareness skills. The teens will attend a preventative workshop addressing stress, suicide and sexual assault. We are also hosting a fashion show in her honor.
Have you been able to speak publicly to parents and students about your experience?
I’ve been invited to speak to several parent and student events. The most recent was a collaborative event with Jack and Jill of America Inc. South Suburban Chicago Chapter .
What are your plans with the foundation?
We are in the process of establishing a program that will serve sexual assault victims, families affected by suicide as well as preventative programs for families residing in the Flossmoor, Illinois, and surrounding communities.