A CHARITY had to support 253 children who were sexually exploited in the Portsmouth area last year.
The figures have been released in a report by the Barnardo's children's charity.
Barnardo's runs five specialist services in south-east region, including Portsmouth.
Trends identified across these services include trafficking, grooming and the victimisation of increasingly younger children - the youngest was 10.
Its national research shows an increase in the use of internet and mobile phone technology by abusers to target and exploit children.
Barnardo's hopes its new Cut Them Free campaign - which calls on Education Secretary Michael Gove to appoint a minister to develop an action plan - will motivate the public to get behind the issue.
Barnardo's shops across the region are taking part with large window displays, posters and postcards.
Anne Marie Carrie, Barnardo's chief executive, said: 'These vulnerable defenceless girls and boys, who crave love and attention, are groomed then abused in the most callous and calculated way, leaving them deeply traumatised and scarred for life.'