A time capsule and art exhibit rolled into one, the Finding Our Voice: Sister Survivors Speak exhibit opened April 16 in the MSU Museum. An opening ceremony welcomed members of the MSU community, survivors of Larry Nassar's abuse and their parents and Michigan politicians to hear speakers and walk through the teal exhibit.
The survivor exhibit is curated in collaboration between the MSU museum and survivors of Nassar's abuse and their parents along with other allies. It includes signs from the dozens of rallies and protests against sexual violence over the past few years at MSU along with reminders of the pain, loss and recovery of survivors amidst tragedy.
Before attendees were allowed inside the exhibit, speakers gave accounts of their experiences and what they hope the exhibit will show those who enter.
Kaylee Lorincz, a survivor of Nassar's abuse, spoke about how she feels disappointed by the school she once wanted to attend and how it was a group of sister survivors who took down the serial pedophile. She said remembering what happened at MSU is crucial and that survivors won't stop fighting until all who knew about their abuser are held accountable.
"I hope that as you walk the steps of this museum that you will remember the sacrifices that have been made," Lorincz said. "If we fail to realize the depth of what was allowed to occur, then we can't keep it from ever happening again."
Several other survivors spoke of their experiences and what being a part of the creation of the exhibit meant to them.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer opened the exhibit by telling the survivors present that as a survivor of sexual assault herself, they have inspired her. She encouraged not only everyone in the MSU community to see the survivor exhibit, but everyone in the State of Michigan.
"You're sending a message to all the people of the state of Michigan that we need to create an environment where people can come forward and be treated with respect, Whitmer said to the survivors in the room. "We have work to do and we're going to continue to work together."
Attorney General Dana Nessel could not be in attendance, but Soliciter General Fadwa A. Hammoud read a written statement from Nessel at the opening.
"This exhibit sends a powerful message to all victims of sexual assault by reminding them they are not alone and need not suffer in silence," Nessel said in her written statement. "This exhibit also serves as a somber reminder of the work ahead of us to eradicate sexual violence in our communities and on our campuses."
Speaking about the importance of using a platform, Miss Michigan 2018 Emily Sioma talked about the MSU Museum's role in doing its part in keeping the conversation about sexual abuse going.
"The risk that the MSU Museum took in using their privilege to be able to uplift the voices of survivors who have been silenced and disappointed by the university will serve to educate and hold accountable our communities and institutions on the importance of listening to survivors," Sioma said.
Whitmer explained to attendees of the opening ceremony that the exhibit, which displays the pain and healing of survivors, empowers those impacted by sexual abuse. Before the first members of the public saw the wall of faces of survivors shown at the age they were abused or the sections of trees with the teal ribbons that used to lace around campus, Whitmer told those present to really see the big picture of what is displayed.
"It is a story that starts in pain and moves to the evolution of understanding and growth, Whitmer said. "The most powerful thing I've ever seen is someone who turns grief or a hard experience into a cause to help others, to make the world a better place for other people. That's why this is so powerful."
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