Young people have helped to make a short film about child sexual exploitation so that its hard-hitting messages can be passed on to their peers. Hannah Somerville reports

Shooting has commenced on a hard-hitting film about child sexual exploitation that one participant has called a “miniature masterpiece”

Seeing Grace tells the story of a teenager forced into an underground world of grooming and prostitution that echoes the cases of young women in Oxford who were abused in the city, prompting the Operation Bullfinch investigation.

Filming has now taken place in a range of locations, including the Cowley Workers Social Club and streets and homes in East Oxford.

Director Mary Scott, from East Oxford, said: “We have done all but two of the scenes that we planned, and filmed all of the physical theatre including a gang rape and the final showdown.

“The cast were absolutely amazing – two of the boys are only 19 and approached it ever so well.

“Leah Chittenden, the actress who plays Grace, had some harrowing scenes, but having been screaming and weeping, she came out all jolly. They really enjoyed it.”

Last year Seeing Grace was performed as a play at the Old Fire Station in George Street, following its debut in Vienna in 2008 and a re-write.

After filming on the 20-minute short finishes in February (2016) Ms Scott, who co-created the play with husband Danny, hopes it can be shown to young people in schools.

She added: “I think we’re getting the message across. People who watched some of it on the monitor said it was very strong and very powerful.”

A cast of young actors from Oxford and further afield have taken on challenging roles, including pimps, clients and the young women they exploit.

Actor Rob Peacock, who studied musical theatre at the Oxford School of Drama and plays Nicky, the pimp, in the film, said: “I think this film will have a very large impact on the audience, making them realise how serious the issues that it addresses are.”

For one 45-year-old woman involved in the production the experience has been painfully close to home.

The former sex worker advised Thames Valley Police alongside campaign group Oxford Community Against Trafficking (Oxcat) in the early days of the Bullfinch enquiry.

During the re-writing of Seeing Grace she advised creators on the script.

“The worker, who asked not to be named, said: “The dedication of the entire cast and crew has been inspirational. We had the honour of working with some young people from local colleges.

“Throughout the week the young actors’ natural ability has captured us emotionally and brought us to tears on several occasions.”

Seeing Grace is financially supported by national charity the Phoenix Trust but is still looking for a sponsor. The woman added: “I would encourage people to visit their website and donate to the funding of this project. We are getting nothing out of the making of this film except the gratification of making an educational tool which may help to prevent even just a few young people from being abused and hurt beyond words.

“Mary and Danny need to be proud. They are midway through a miniature masterpiece.”

In 2013, seven men were given prison sentences at the Old Bailey totalling 95 years for offences in Oxford including rape, facilitating child prostitution and trafficking following a joint investigation by Thames Valley Police and Oxfordshire County Council.

In March this year, it was revealed that more than 370 children are suspected to have been victims of sexual exploitation over the past 15 years.

* For more information on Seeing Grace or to get involved in the production visit