SHYNE On You Crazy Diamond
For two weeks starting on January 17, Shyne San Diego—founded and led by Global Gather alumnus Cynthia Austin—partnered with area organizations in the San Diego and Orange County area to mount a first-of-its-kind exhibition on sexual and human trafficking entitled, “Behold Her: Portraits of Survivors of Human Trafficking” at You Belong Here, a co-working and community events space in San Diego.
An exhibit of photographic portraits of trafficking survivors by Amari DixonPhotography, “Behold Her” is the first photo exhibition undertaken by SHYNE. More than 100 people attended the premiere evening, and Cynthia said the highly successful endeavor was the culmination of a long-held dream.
Cynthia supporting Women in Business at the #linkedinlocalsd kick off 2020 event in San Diego hosted on January 31, 2020.
“I knew from the beginning that the survivors’ voices were the key to reshaping the public’s view of then,” she explained.
“The message I believe people took away from the show is hope. Each image represents 1000 victims of trafficking in San Diego every year. These women give hope to those victims as examples of what is possible with community support and a desire for change. Each image also represents a woman giving back to other victims by providing services, work opportunities and resources to assist with healing.
One of the survivors, Jessica, said it best:
“Nothing that has happened to me in the past will hold me back. I am here. I am empowered. I am a new person. I am breaking all stereotypes…Something that somebody else did to me is going to put a label on me? I don’t think so! That’s not going to happen. That’s not who I am.’”
The city of San Diego, California, ranks eighth-highest in the United States for intensity of Commercial and Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) and drives an estimated $810 million in the underground sex economy.
“My vision for SHYNE in 2020 [is to] continue building the Survivors Business Network, where survivors and businesses with NGOs (non-governmental organizations) work collaboratively to support the women, girls and children who survive trafficking.”
Two days after the exhibit opening, a Survivor Business Pop-Up Boutique was held at You Are Here. The timing of the show was not coincidental, as National Human Trafficking Awareness Month is observed annually each January in the United States.
Cynthia participates in the January 24th Media Symposium: Changing the Narrative/Media Impact on the Human Trafficking Movement hosted by the South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking with Amy McClelland Bril and Ana Mony.
Cynthia and SHYNE’s journey began a little over a year ago, and she remains steadfast in her desire to not only provide holistic support to survivors, but also to let “people know that [survivors] get caught in a life of exploitation due to their upbringing, where some form of abuse occurred making them vulnerable to predators.
“When a victim can feel their inherent value and understand it wasn’t their fault, that there’s nothing wrong with them, there is a turning point in their lives. I hope this work will perhaps help society to stop blaming victims for the suffering they’ve endured. I hope it gives people empathy, compassion and understanding about exploitation, it’s nature and what we are up against with sex trafficking.”
After the show, “Keelin,” a pseudonym for one of the women whose portraits was hung as part of the exhibition, wrote to Cynthia. Eerily, the exhibition was on the same street where she’d been first sold for sex by the individual who trafficked her. “You have helped me share my voice and my story and it means the world to me,” Keelin wrote to Cynthia. “I will always cherish our friendship and will support you in any way I can.”