My Dangerous Loverboy

My Dangerous Loverboy

my dangerous loverboy

Research Centre
Art and Design Research Centre


Film and Cross Media Platform Project. Premiered at the Atlantic Film Festival, Canada, 2009

My Dangerous Loverboy, researched, written and directed by Virginia Heath, addresses the question of how to engage the creative talents of vulnerable and marginalized young women, making their experience visible to public and governing agencies, to bring about change. Sexually exploited teenage girls were often stigmatized as runaways, truants, prostitutes and petty criminals rather than understood as victims of serious crime. The primary aim of the research was to create a film as a key intervention to alert young people to the dangers of sex trafficking. It was further developed as a cross platform project to investigate the potential of inter-active and borderless new media platforms to facilitate this aim.

Commissioned by the United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) to address the fact that although sex trafficking is a national problem, when the film project began it was a virtually hidden issue. Heath was granted unique privileged access to conduct face to face interviews with frontline agency workers and sex trafficking victims from five key projects: Barnardos SECOS (Middlesbrough); Streetreach (Doncaster); Taking Stock (Sheffield); Safe and Sound (Derby); and the NSPCC (East London). Narratives were obtained from different interviewees and drawn together into a screenplay to protect identities. This was then presented back to the girls for their feedback. This iterative writing process continued throughout the pre and post-production phases. The trust and confidence of both sexually exploited girls and agency workers consequently gained was crucial to giving the film a powerful, authentic voice.

Significantly, victims of sexual exploitation do not believe they are being exploited and consider their relationship to be one of 'love'. However, when I have showed the film to the young people I have worked with their response is. 'That's me isn't it?

Key Official, National Working Group For Sexually Exploited Young People

A key research objective was to explore ways to engage a ‘hard to reach’ marginalized teenage audience. This inspired the creation of the My Dangerous Loverboy website supported by the National Film Board of Canada Cross Media Challenge Award (2008) using YouTube, Music Video, Animation, Facebook and social media platforms to facilitate creative engagement. The project was nominated for a Royal Television Society Award (2010); cited on the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT) Nov 2010, with reportage on the BBC and in The Times (A girl ‘who only wanted to be loved’; and the film screened at an International European Conference on Human Trafficking – Brussels (2009).

The reach of the My Dangerous Loverboy project can also be seen in the way the film is used to raise awareness in schools and youth centres as well as changing frontline agency worker attitudes. Agencies include the UKHTC which extensively piloted the film in schools in 2009; the National Working Group for Sexually Exploited Young People; the Family Planning Association and PSHE Association which promote the ‘Love or Lies’ Educational Resource Pack, (including a DVD of My Dangerous Loverboy) across the UK. Front line agency workers have been reached through the UKHTC and the film has been screened to new police recruits, social services, the Office of Criminal Justice Reform and health professionals.


Researchers involved

Steve Sprung - Course Leader, MA Film and Media Production,  MA International Documentary Production

Professor Virginia Heath - Professor of Film

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