27 November 2023

What women really benefit …

Bright fame: “What women really benefit from is relationships, knowing that there is someone beside them”

 

Published by Revive.co.uk – written by Thomas Fiege

“I often feel lonely and yet I always enjoy chatting with you.” Cautiously, the door to the heart of one of the women behind the windows on the Red Light District thus went ajar. “I occasionally have a cup of coffee with a colleague,” Chloe* told me, “but mostly I’m alone anyway. Even when I’m at home with my parents it feels lonely, because they don’t know who I am and what I do…”

When Frits Rouvoet from the Bright Fame foundation had another conversation with Chloe the other day, she said, “Thank you for being here and for me not being so alone now.” After she had reported being very lonely, Frits had invited her to the lunch they organise weekly at Bright Fame. “You could see from her face that she enjoyed being with people with whom she was allowed to be herself, but who also know what she does. She could take off her mask for a while at this place. I had another nice conversation with her about the time in my life when I was a gambling addict and stole money from my boss to pay for this addiction. Of course, my situation was very different from the one she is in, but I was also living with a secret then, lying to family and being ashamed of what I was doing. I didn’t see a future either.”

The same night Frits and a colleague first spoke to Chloe, they also got talking to a lady who was almost in tears after receiving a compliment from the two. “Mentally, something is playing out inside me,” she told them. “What am I doing? I don’t know what to do…” They gave her the book Struggle in Your Thinking by Joyce Meyer in her own language. Meanwhile, there is regular app contact and she comes over to chat from time to time. It is indicative of how Frits works with Bright Fame. Standing next to people, seeing and hearing them, and talking to them person to person….

Openness

Frits has recently noticed that women working in prostitution in the Red Light District are more open to contact again. “After the corona period, you saw that many women were mainly very focused on making money so they could work off debts. Since corona and the war in Ukraine, of course, prices have also gone up, not only here but also in their home countries. If you then have to take care of your family or children there, this does add pressure. In addition, incomes were also falling. So many women had neither the time nor the space in their heads to stop by Bright Fame, even if only for a cup of coffee, and certainly not to think about a different future.”

Relationship

But for a few weeks now, this has started to change. Frits and his team are having better contact with the ladies and also increasingly good conversations with them. A growing number of them are thinking about the questions: What am I doing? Can I change? Really getting out of prostitution, however, is a very big step. Many women live under great financial pressures from high rent costs and child and family care. Therefore, reaching out to them is not so much about telling them that what they are doing is not right and that they should stop. What the women really benefit from is relationships, knowing that someone is standing beside them.

“First and foremost, we offer relationships on the street rather than just counselling,” Frits says. “And we are not just evangelising either. Many Christians want to come to the Red Light District to bring light into the darkness. They come to pray with the women and ask them: Do you already know Jesus? But often these people are there only once and then they disappear again. And this is not what the women need. Instead, they need a piece of relationship, someone who knows them and who sees them. Besides, a lot of women here have a religious background and therefore already struggle with what they do because they know there is a God. So what concerns them are thoughts like, ‘God is angry with me’ and ‘I have to stop.'” For many women, however, there is no way out, so that people sporadically stop by to evangelise and say to them, “You need to stop” or “This is not what God has for you” does not get them anywhere. “Then will you make sure my child can go to school?” responded one of the women.

Strong presence

Real contact and deep conversations about God come precisely through carefully built relationships. Bright Fame wants to be strongly present in the world of prostitution, and finds that by doing so, women engage the foundation’s staff in their lives and problems. And then they can show that God wants to be present in their lives and their problems too, that you can always talk to Him and always come to Him with your situation. “So often we get calls because there is something and then we are asked: can you pray for me? Or we get apps about a situation asking: What should I do? Or: Can I make an appointment with you, can I have a word with you?”

Breaking free from prostitution is and often remains a complicated process, where standing alongside those who want to is essential. One woman who managed to get out of prostitution told Frits: “You have really been spiritual parents to me who helped me come out of the darkness.” Another woman commented: “Frits, you are the only one who has always kept believing in me. And that helped me get out. There was someone who stood beside me and believed in me and because of that I was able to take steps.”

Unfortunately, however, within the aid sector it is often about numbers and results. “We obviously have to be professional and effective as an organisation and it all has to be financially attractive,” Frits explains. “As a result, we quickly talk about clients. But as a Christian you can’t do that,” he believes. “It’s your neighbour sitting opposite you.”

 

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A warm greeting 

Frits Rouvoet

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