Police have shared a photo of a woman cleaning the windows of a house in an effort to warn people of a serious issue.
The image was shared on Facebook by Avon and Somerset Constabulary, and shows the woman in the house as if we are looking at her from the street.
At first the image seems entirely innocent – just a woman doing some housework. But the police are encouraging people to look into possible deeper meanings of this kind of scene, which could be a sign of a more sinister story.
Sharing the image on Facebook with the hashtag ‘Tell Us What You See’, the police wrote:
Do you see someone who is always inside the home cleaning? They are also never out of the home on their own?
This could be an indicator of domestic servitude.
Many victims won’t know they’re being exploited and need you to be a voice for them.
Domestic servitude is a form of modern slavery which involves domestic workers being taken advantage of, often resulting in relentless working hours and lack of freedom.
Anti-Slavery International describes the issue further on their website:
Domestic workers perform a range of tasks in private homes including: cooking, cleaning, laundry, taking care of children and the elderly and running errands.
Some domestic workers also live in their employers’ homes and are often considered ‘on call’ to undertake work for their employer 24 hours a day.
Domestic work is a sector which is particularly vulnerable to exploitation and domestic slavery because of the unique circumstances of working inside a private household combined with a lack of legal protection.
Of course, the police aren’t suggesting everyone spotted cleaning their windows is in this situation, but they’re working towards raising awareness of the possibility that they could be.
They are encouraging the public to take note if there is something unusual about the potential victim, for example if they seem to be cleaning every time you see them, are never seen outside by themselves, are always dropped off or picked up in a certain vehicle or are showing signs of abuse.
One person commented on the post suggesting the police may receive calls about people who simply worked at home, but they responded it was better to be safe than sorry, writing:
We’d rather people contact us in the first instance and if we find there’s nothing exploitative going on at least we know that there’s nothing further that needs to be done.
If there is possible exploitation happening we will follow up accordingly.
Avon and Somerset police have seen an increase in the number of reports about modern slavery in the last two years, which they suggest could be down to more media coverage of modern slavery at car washes and nail bars.
Their website explains:
We rely heavily on the public to be our eyes and ears, to be in the places we can’t always be in. Intelligence plays a huge role in our fight to tackle crime; information received from the public could be the missing piece of a puzzle or break-through in a case.
Modern day slavery is happening across the UK and we need your help to protect some of society’s most vulnerable people, who all too often don’t have a voice.
Not all of victims of modern slavery are aware they’re slaves, working conditions may seem better than what they would receive at home.
Criminals are taking advantage of this and this is why it’s important members of the public speak out for them, by telling us what you see you might help free someone enslaved with or without their knowledge.
Police encourage anyone who spots something unusual to report it to them on 101, or if you’d like to remain anonymous you can also make a report through the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.
Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.