The 2018 French-Canadian show ‘Fugueuse,’ also known as ‘Runaway,’ depicts the harsh reality of the sex-trafficking rings and their devastating effects on the youth. Fanny Couture, the main protagonist, is a young girl from a suburban family who falls into forced sex work after meeting Damien Stone, a charming but dangerous man who takes advantage of the girl’s naivety. Soon after falling into ill-advised infatuation with the man, Fanny’s life begins to crumble, replaced by the dark world of prostitution and human trafficking.
The show takes a painfully raw and authentic approach to depicting the highly sensitive topic of human/sex trafficking through Fanny’s heart-wrenching story. Likewise, the narrative also touches upon the overwhelming panic that floods the young girl’s family in her predicament. While the same infuses the story with emotionally gripping scenes and compels the audience to invest in the plot, it also informs the show’s sense of realism. As such, viewers are bound to wonder about Fanny and her story’s connection to real life.
Fugueuse: A Fictional Story About Real-Life Tragedies
‘Fugueuse’ is not based on a true story but delves into a very real phenomenon that unfolds far too often in real life. The show deals with the experiences of a young girl, Fanny, who falls victim to a network of human traffickers after crossing paths with a manipulative abuser, Damien Stone. In bringing this story to life, the show’s narrative presents a fictional account of events that lead to Fanny’s gradual descent into prostitution. While her story isn’t a recount of a specific real-life instance, it certainly takes inspiration from reality.
According to statistics, there were 552 human trafficking incidents reported to the police in the year 2021. Although this number provides us with a fair understanding of the situation’s gravity, the fact remains that such situations are hard to track. Therefore, more often than not, police reports end up being an underestimation. Nevertheless, the reality of human trafficking and its turbulent nature can be garnered through such a statistic.
Furthermore, one can spot multiple stories of sex trafficking victims who share similar experiences to Fanny. Gabrielle Giroux, a human trafficking survivor, underwent one such instance after meeting a man in Outaouais Mall at 14. “There were no alarm bells in my head,” said Giroux in French during a conversation with Radio-Canada. “Nothing sexual, it seemed fine.”
The man built a relationship with the Giroux in the following years, showering her with trust and affection. “The process started insidiously with piercings, little gifts, listening, and advice. Comments like, you’re mature for your age,” shared the woman. Eventually, the man steered her toward working at a strip club and locked her up in a basement when she resisted.
At 19, the man sold Giroux into an exploitative network, where she faced many horrors, including beatings, rape, and sex exploitation. “He sold me. I didn’t see the sale. But I learned I was sold for $15,000,” the woman said. “I became their possession from that moment.”
Thankfully, Giroux was able to escape from her situation entirely by her own bravery and initiative. After figuring out that she was being sent to Calgary, the woman made her move. “I threw myself from the back of the van. Again, I was in a very public place. Nobody did anything. I told myself in that moment: if I die, I die.”
Thus, even though Fanny’s character doesn’t have a fixed basis in reality, the nature of her experience does. The show carefully unwraps the various layers of Fanny’s experience, highlighting the damage Damien’s connection to her has on her life. Damien manipulates Fanny through unhealthy relationship dynamics and tempting explorations of her sexuality. Once he has the young girl hooked, he uses his influence to take advantage of her and push her into damaging prostitution practices.
The narrative remains true to reality in unfolding this storyline and strives to unveil the truth behind the connection between runaway youth and sex trafficking. In that regard, Fanny’s story almost becomes an authentic cautionary tale while simultaneously imparting some hope to audiences. Ultimately, ‘Fugueuse’ remains a work of fiction. Yet, the show’s basis in real-life stories is impossible to deny.