Through her church- and community-based work, Marilyn has helped countless women and girls impacted by sexual abuse
Trauma was a central theme to Marilyn Lacy’s early years. Sexually abused by her stepfather, Marilyn found herself in “a world of bad choices and wrong decisions,” including a long-term relationship with another abuser while in her teens.
“Then I got married and was in an abusive relationship for 10 years,” she says. “When he died in 2016, I found out he’d sexually abused two of my daughters. And at that point, my purpose was born.”
Soon after, Marilyn launched Marilyn Lacy Ministries, a 501(c)(3) organization that ministers to survivors of sexual abuse. In addition to facilitating classes at her own First Baptist Church of Glenarden, Marilyn goes into the community as a court advocate as well as a volunteer at the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center at UM Prince George’s Hospital Center.
“They call me in when they get a survivor and I go there for support,” Marilyn says. “Then when the court date comes, I go to court with the survivor and just walk alongside her as a support resource.”
Keeping her ‘why’ front-and-center
While Marilyn acknowledges the work is difficult and, often, painful, she never loses sight of the bigger picture—and her bigger goal. A mom of eight children ages 10-16, Marilyn sees herself in both the girls and the mothers who come to her ministry, or who she meets through her volunteer and advocacy work—and that’s what keeps her moving forward.
“I do this work for each little girl—for each mother I meet,” she says. “My story is so horrible. I really don’t want this to be another woman’s story. Some of the stories I hear are just so horrific, and I need to do my part. And it’s not just for girls and women—it’s for boys and young men, too.” Young men, she notes, are often harder to engage. “They don’t want to walk in this—to them, it’s so shameful. There’s such a stigma attached to men who are sexually abused by other men—family members, often.”
Now, though, Marilyn is finding men who are willing to tell their stories and support others in the process. “It’s amazing,” she says, and has helped her reach this critical audience.
Diversifying her days, but staying focused on one goal
In addition to her nonprofit and service work, Marilyn is an accomplished entrepreneur with her own skincare line, Restored by Marilyn. She developed the line because several of her children suffer from eczema and traditional products were too irritating for their skin. The brand recently launched a new collection of aromatherapy candles called Light the Way—all proceeds are used to support and advocate for sexual abuse survivors.
Marilyn also serves on the Leadership Council for Walker’s Legacy, a global network for professional and entrepreneurial multicultural women, and recently published her first book. Her ministry and education work, though, remains her central focus.
“My main goal is to stop the sexual abuse of women and children,” she says. “And we do that through education. If you stay with a person who abuses you in any way, you’re more likely to be abused sexually—and your children are likely to be abused.” People who have a history of being abusive will continue to be abusive—and it’s often a quick slide from one type of abuse to another. “If he will verbally abuse you he will physically abuse you and he will sexually abuse you. I was raped by a boyfriend—and there had been so many red flags. But I had gotten accustomed to the abuse, so it was a normal thing for me.”
Looking back, though, she sees herself in the women and girls she supports and teaches them to identify and act on those red flags.
“I tell them when you see signs of abuse or he starts to make you feel uncomfortable—you’re afraid or he’s controlling where you’re going and what you’re wearing, you want to rethink things…and you want to get out.”
Looking ahead, Marilyn is eager to get back into the community and continue her work. The more visible, she says, the more people come forward.
“We have people who come and say, ‘I never told anybody that this happened to me.’ One woman was 87 years old. She’s held this secret all of her life. When you can tell that secret—it’s such a tremendous weight lifted off. I can still feel the relief of when I told my 6th grade teacher. It’s freeing and it needs to happen—because until it happens, that person is bound by her secret.”