Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fantine is in Your City-Will You Help Her?

On Thursday, I perused the movie section at the downtown library. My husband was planning on attending an event out of town on Friday night, so I was searching for a chick flick, musical, or random awesome movie to watch while he was gone. I'm very picky when it comes to what movies I watch, so I would pick up a movie, look for reviews on the internet, and put it back on the shelf. And then I came across Les Miserables. Years ago, I had watched--and fallen in love with--the Liam Neeson version, so I wasn't sure if this newer version could hold a candle to it. But, earlier in the week, some of my friends had wholeheartedly recommended the newer Les Miz to me, and hey--it was a musical version of Les Miz, so why not?

Fast forward to Friday evening. I  spontaneously decided to attend a screening of In Plain Sight, which was one of my classmates was hosting on campus. As I watched this hour-long journey into the lives of the victims of human trafficking--and the people who are trying to save them--my eyes were opened to the widespread, insidious network of human trafficking in the United States. After the movie, I went home, made cookies, and popped in Les Miserables. For the next few hours, I was thoroughly engrossed, my heart being swept up with the lives, hardships, and triumphs of the various characters. I love this adaptation of Les Miz. It's quite a bit different from the Liam Neeson version that I grew up with, but I love both of these adaptations in different ways. This newer movie is nearly completely sung, which I think it awesome. Plus, the actors sang while they acted--instead of lip syncing to a pre-recorded soundtrack, which is also cool. Yes, there's quite a bit more raunchiness in some parts (the whole "Master of the House" scene was utterly repulsive), though I was surprised--and grateful--that there wasn't the amount of nudity that I had been expecting (aside from revealing dresses and a partially naked male backside, there isn't much at all. Even when you see different people having sex, they are mostly clothed). Overall, the entire movie was gripping. And ultimately,  I think one of the most incredible elements about this movie was the character of Fantine. 

A few of the most powerful scenes in the entire movie, in my opinion, were the ones down at the docks. Fantine is trying to harden her heart so that she can get money for her daughter, and she stumbles down in the darkness as "Lovely Ladies" is being sung by prostitutes and sailors alike. In this horrific atmosphere, you can see that Fantine in no way desires to be there. An old hag wants to take Fantine's beautiful hair, and Fantine is repulsed. Yet, in her desperation, she agrees, singing: 
"What can I do? It pays a debt. Ten francs may save my poor Cosette!"
Continuing in her desperation, at the pressures of the society at the docks, Fantine sells two teeth. Then, several of the prostitutes join in pressuring Fantine to succumb to the business at the docks. As a sailor and Fantine walk off, Fantine--in the painful cries of her heart--sings:
"Just as well they never seeThe hate that's in your headDon't they know they're making loveTo one already dead!"
After the sailor is done with her, Fantine remains there, crushed and beaten. She sings "I Dreamed a Dream," which powerfully reaches up from the depths of her hurting soul. 
"I had a dream my life would beSo different from this hell I'm livingSo different now from what it seemedNow life has killed the dream I dreamed."
I sat and cried softly. Fantine had high, hopeful aspirations for her life, but experienced such pain and suffering at the hands of others. She had gotten trapped into this harmful, hurtful lifestyle, and was at the mercy--or lack of it--of other hurting people. And as I saw Fantine lying there in the utter desperation and brokenness, I thought about the estimated 100,000 children (not counting women) who are victims of sex trafficking each year in the U.S.A. 

I thought about the stories and women I had seen in the documentary earlier in the evening. Women who had been molested at young ages (even as young as 4 or 5 years old). Women who were controlled and forced to bring $500-$1000 a night to their pimps, in order to retain a place to stay and food to eat. Women who had been coerced into this lifestyle and were trapped, unable to leave. Women who were abused physically and emotionally. Women who were given no hope of a better life. 

In Les Miserables, Jean Valjean ultimately ends up saving Fantine from the authorities, takes care of her, and cares for her daughter. We need to be Jean Valjeans in our society. In our communities--rural, towns, and cities alike--people are being sold for sex. The women in the In Plain Sight documentary didn't know what they liked or who they were as individuals with dignity. All they knew was the abuse and constant life of horror that they faced each day. Ealier in Les Miderables, Jean Valjean turned his back on Fantine--he didn't concern himself with the issue, and let the foreman fire her. Will we turn our backs on these women, men,  and children who are modern day slaves in our own country? 

My classmate who showed the documentary last night explained that she spent part of her summer working at a "safe house" in Texas for women who were rescued from sex trafficking. As part of her summer, my classmate also had special training in related areas. She told me that now, after her summer of ministry in this area, she could take me down a street in Houston, Texas, and point out to me all of the brothels--on both sides of the street--that most people don't know exist there. Right now, via the internet, "massage parlors" that are really brothels, and truck stops (to name a few), people are being sold for sex. 

Pray. Pray for the victims. Pray for law enforcement. Pray for the pimps. Pray for all those who help rescue the many victims of sex trafficking. But don't stop there. Do something. Check out these 31 Ways to Take Action, for starters. Become more aware that this situation is horrific and needs to stop. The Super Bowl is coming up--guess what? Surrounding that event is tons of sex trafficking. Let's be the generation where sex trafficking comes to an end. 

We all have a "Fantine" in our city--will we help her in some way?

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