Oxford City Council is backing a Thames Valley Police campaign to raise awareness and reporting of hidden abuses.
Over the next 18 months, the campaign, called Hidden Harm, will bring into the spotlight a number of abuse-related crimes – including child sexual exploitation, hate crime and female genital mutilation – that often go undetected or unreported.
Throughout October, the City Council will join Thames Valley Police in raising awareness of modern slavery – showing people how to spot the signs of the crime and, if people have concerns, how they can be reported to police.
Modern slavery can include sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic servitude, forced begging, organised theft and forced marriage.
There are estimated to be 10,000 to 13,000 modern slavery victims in the UK – and 45.8m victims worldwide – but the hidden nature of the crime means the true number is not known.
Oxford City Council has been the leading voice on tackling modern slavery in the city for a number of years, and has organised and led conferences about how to spot the signs of the crime – and what to do if you do.
This information has been delivered, in bespoke packages, to hundreds of people across Oxford, including hoteliers, taxi drivers, faith groups, health and housing agencies, drug treatment workers, MPs and councillors.
Last year the City Council supported Thames Valley Police in setting up Hotel Watch, which trains hoteliers in how to spot the signs of exploitation, including child sexual exploitation and modern slavery, and what to do if they believe something suspicious is happening on their premises.
Hotel Watch has brought together 65 hoteliers across the city, and established formal links between them, Thames Valley Police and the City Council to discuss issues and raise concerns.
Oxford City Council has also introduced mandatory safeguarding training for all taxi drivers that it licences to operate in Oxford, and worked with neighbouring districts to roll this training out to all taxi drivers across Oxfordshire.
Councillor Tom Hayes, Executive Board Member for Community Safety, said: “We are proud to support Thames Valley Police’s Hidden Harm campaign to raise the profile of exploitation and abuse.
“The consequences of these crimes can be life-changing for victims, but because of their nature they can often go undetected or unreported.
This campaign is about changing that: equipping you with the information to be able to spot the signs of exploitation and report these crimes.
“You are our eyes and ears in the community; together we can stamp out this hidden abuse.”
D/Supt Nick John, Head of Protecting Vulnerable People at Thames Valley Police, said: “Our Hidden Harm campaign aims to raise awareness of abuse happening in the heart of our communities across Thames Valley, including Oxford.
“The message at the centre of our campaign is simple – Open your eyes to abuse. It could be happening where you live so if you suspect it, report it.
“We are committed to working with our partners to make our communities safer and are grateful for Oxford City Council’s support of this campaign.
“By working together we are better able to identify crimes, safeguard victims and bring offenders to justice.”
For more information, visit: www.thamesvalley.police.uk/hiddenharm.