A 10-year-old girl is in hospital following a violent assault, police said.
Devon and Cornwall Police were called just after 5pm on Thursday to reports that the girl had been attacked in Exmouth earlier that afternoon.
The child was found near Marley Road in a distressed state by a member of the public, who took her to her home in the Brixington area of the town.
Emergency services were contacted and a full police response was launched, including searches, speaking to people in the area and a forensic examination of the scene.
Superintendent Matt Lawler, the local policing commander for Exeter, East and Mid Devon said: "The child has been taken to hospital where she is receiving the expert medical care and treatment she needs, supported by specialist officers from our Public Protection Unit, and of course her family.
"Given the complexity and sensitivity in supporting the child, the full details of what has happened may take a little while to become clear.
"That said, this a very proactive and thorough ongoing investigation and will involve searches of the scene and local area, house-to-house and CCTV inquiries, and further detailed forensic work.
"A number of people have been spoken to, but no-one has yet been arrested.
"I would ask everyone to try to remain calm and allow the investigation to take place. For example, it is not helpful to spread rumour or speculation on social media, as this may lead to further upset for others, including the family."
There will be more visible policing in the area, he added.
Police would like to hear from anyone who was in the area of Marley Road and the adjacent fields late on Tuesday afternoon and may have noticed anything they feel could be relevant.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the force on 101, quoting log 636 for October 4.