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SOU installation relinquishes guilt for assault victims

(KTVL/ Kimberly Kolliner)

For the first time, SOU is displaying a survivor installation called "What I Was Wearing" in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness month.

It features the clothing assault victims had on during the time of their attack and triggers many emotions for people walking through.

Luis Barrios-Hayden, a senior at SOU, was one student who was stares blankly at the survivor testimonials, unable to comprehend how a birthday could lead to unimaginable betrayal.

However, his lack of understanding, unfortunately, is not for having a lack of experience.

"I experienced sexual abuse as a child by my step-farther. It happened for several years," said Barrios-Hayden.

For Barrios-Hayden this started at the age of nine.

It's why seeing this display of innocent children, friends and family, subjected to similar torture takes him back to years of battling his own trauma.

"While I informed my parent about it, I was told that it was my fault and it's something I've struggled that I've struggled with my whole life. Ridding myself of the shame and the guilt. Accepting that it wasn't my fault and that I was just a child," said Barrios-Hayden.

Like Barrios-Hayden said, relinquishing any guilt is the purpose of the "What I Was Wearing" installation.

Whether that comes from family or public shaming.

"Our society kind of puts a lot of blame on survivors. Asking them what they were wearing or what they were drinking if they were drinking if they fought back," said Kate McGrath, a senior who coordinated this project for her capstone.

The display shares stories of people who fought as hard as they could, and others – many of them children - who simply couldn't.

While all of the outfits displayed represent real people who may not have had a voice, Barrios-Hayden hopes to give them one.

"This summer I'll be a camp counselor for at-risk youth because it's something that I needed at that age," said Barrios-Hayden.

The installation first began at the University of Arkansas in 2013.

It will be at the SOU campus Wednesday and Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

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