DORSET children are at ‘significant’ risk of sexual exploitation and are currently being monitored by police, it has been revealed.

Today, Dorset Police is backing an awareness campaign to urge victims and those who believe a child may be at risk to speak out about Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE).

The force has revealed it is currently monitoring 20 children who have been assessed as being of significant risk of CSE.

These children are being safeguarded by a special team, set up in September last year, and its partner agencies.

Since the team was set up, 61 individual boys and girls across Dorset have been assessed as being at significant risk of CSE.

The awareness event today aims to highlight the issues surrounding CSE; encouraging everyone to think, spot the signs and speak out against abuse, and adopt a zero tolerance to adults developing inappropriate relationships with children.

It also encourages those who children chose to confide in to listen, believe them and take appropriate action.

Detective Sergeant Andy Bell, of the CSE Investigation Team, said: “Since the team was formed we have arrested 15 suspected perpetrators of CSE for offences such as rape, inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, creating indecent images of children and drugs offences.”

The force says that although high-profile cases have been highlighted in the press over the last few years, there are still people out there too scared to speak up.

Cliff Turner, independent chair of the Dorset and Poole and Bournemouth Safeguarding Children’s Boards, said: “We know from Rochdale, Rotherham and Oxford that bad things happen to children and young people if people are too scared to speak up about possible exploitation.

“If you see or know something suspicious please discuss your concerns with the Police or with children's social care. The information that you have could be an important piece of a jig saw picture that could prevent another tragedy".

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a form of child abuse that involves the manipulation or coercion of young people to engage in sexual activity in exchange for money, gifts including alcohol, tobacco and drugs, accommodation, affection or status.

Detective Sergeant Andy Bell added: “CSE is a public protection priority everywhere. Members of the public, retailers and those in service industries such as taxi drivers, hoteliers and food outlets can help safeguard children at risk by looking out for signs of vulnerability and abuse.

“We encourage everyone from all walks of life to think, spot and speak out. There is a responsibility on everyone in society to do all they can to protect vulnerable people. Together, we can work to inform, educate and prevent this form of child abuse.

“We are resolute in our determination to identify perpetrators of CSE and bring them to justice.”

If you have any concerns that a child you know may be a victim of Child Sexual Exploitation report it to Dorset Police on 101 or in an emergency 999 and make an immediate report.