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McGarty: 'Sex exploitation is shocking'

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Whitney Dean in EastEnders

© BBC

EastEnders star Shona McGarty has revealed that she met four victims of sexual exploitation to prepare for her current storyline.

The actress plays Whitney Dean in the soap, who is groomed by pimp Rob Grayson (Jody Latham). McGarty admitted that it was shocking to hear details of real-life cases.

"They all came down to the studio and we just sat together and talked for hours," she told the Sunday Mirror. "It's ­absolutely shocking that this actually happens to girls of such a young age. The youngest one I met was only 13. It stunned me how easy it was for these young girls to be manipulated.

"What shocked me was how lovely and normal these girls were. They could have been the kind of girls I hang around with. I knew it would be upsetting to meet these girls, but I needed to fully understand what they'd gone through. It's such an important subject and not enough parents with young daughters and even sons know about it."

She continued: "This is going to be a continuing ­storyline - it's not just going to be brushed under the carpet. Whitney will live in fear that Rob and his gang are going to come after her when she escapes. That's what these people do. They don't just leave you to get on with your life. In their mind they own you."

McGarty added that she would like the plot to raise awareness and lead to proper sentences for people who exploit youngsters because the current conviction rate "isn't good enough". Get the Inside Soap magazine on your iPhone or iPad

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