MODERN slavery and exploitation offences are more prevalent than first feared, according to latest figures.

A report released to mark International Day for the Abolition of Slavery shows that there were around 2,500 victims last year in the Thames Valley region.

The police and crime commissioner for Thames Valley - Anthony Stansfeld - ordered the report to improve the service available to victims at the Thames Valley Independent Trauma Advisory (ITA).

The ITA project has supported 145 victims over the course of two years and the number of victims of exploitation referred to the service has continued to increase.

Mr Stansfeld, said: “Although slavery is far from a new crime, national attention over the last few years has highlighted that slavery is still prevalent across the UK and is happening within the Thames Valley.

"This report has highlighted the extent of modern slavery in the area and gives us a better picture of both the victims and perpetrators of this crime and the potential number of victims.

“We know there are likely to be more victims of modern slavery in the Thames Valley and it is important we continue to raise awareness of the issue to both identify victims and effectively tackle this awful crime.

“There are many mistaken perceptions about modern slavery and it is crucial that the public are aware that anyone can be a victim.

“The perpetrators of this horrific crime often target the most vulnerable in our society, especially those who struggle to or who are unable to speak up for themselves."

A review of all the support services available has been undertaken and the funding available to support vulnerable victims has been increased.

A modern slavery coordinator for Thames Valley has also been appointed.

A victim of modern slavery said: “I don’t know why I was exploited, I was married and then taken away. There was no reason for it apart from money. It is always money. Selling girls for drugs or money.

“It was a very traumatic experience, not just the 18 months I was held captive, but for what followed as well. It’s an experience that I don’t want to have to remember, or recount. It wasn’t just sexual abuse, but it was emotional and physical as well.

“I am now free from the sexual and physical abuse, but the psychological and emotional abuse is still on-going. I’ve had great support from the psychologists I was referred to, and with them I feel that I can start to overcome this trauma."

Victims in the Thames Valley can access support by visiting: or nationally by calling the National Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.