Police say at least one of the three women allegedly held in a London home as slaves for 30 years was beaten while in captivity.
Officers arrested two people after three women aged between 30 and 69 were rescued from a house in Lambeth, south London, following a probe sparked by a Sky News report.
And detectives say the pair, a man and a woman both aged 67, are also being questioned on immigration charges. They said they were not looking for any more suspects or victims.
Scotland Yard also said the two accused were previously arrested in the 1970s, but did not reveal the nature of those arrests.
Police, who have bailed the pair until January pending further enquiries, said they expected the investigation to take a "considerable" amount of time.
The three alleged victims are a 69-year-old Malaysian woman, a 57-year-old Irish woman and a 30-year-old Briton - who police say may have been held captive for her entire life.
The house in question is at an address in Lambeth
The case came to light after one of the three told a charity she had been held against her will in a house in London for more than 30 years.
Police said the two suspects have been in the country for "many years", and said the case "so far is unique to us".
It was described as a "complicated and disturbing picture of emotional control over many years".
The women were rescued from thea house in Lambeth last month after one of them saw Aneeta Prem, founder of the Freedom Charity, being interviewed on Sky News and contacted her charity for help.
Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland said the whole of the human trafficking unit - 37 officers - were working on this investigation.
Specially-trained officers are working with the women to try to understand their lives over the last 30 years or more, he said.
Mr Hyland said the women are in the care of a specialist non-governmental organisation.
"Whilst we do not believe that they have been subjected to sexual abuse, we know that there has been physical abuse, described as beatings," he said.
Commander Steve Rodhouse said police are "unpicking a story that spans at least 30 years of these women's lives".
He said that to the outside world they may have appeared to have been a "normal family".
"This does mean that over the course of many decades the people at the heart of this investigation, and the victims, would probably have come into contact with public services, including our own," he said.
"That's something we need to examine fully. What I can say with some certainty is that the two suspects in this case were arrested by the Metropolitan Police in the 1970s, some considerable time ago."
Mr Rodhouse said police do not believe the case falls into the category of sexual exploitation or what is traditionally referred to as human trafficking.
"It is not as brutally obvious as women being physically restrained inside an address and not being allowed to leave," he said.
He said that to label the investigation as domestic servitude or forced labour is "far too simplistic".
Former Olympics minister Dame Tessa Jowell, who represents Dulwich and West Norwood, has been briefed by Scotland Yard detectives and Lambeth borough commanders about the case.
She said: "This is a hugely complex case which will be understood through the information provided by the three women, who are now in a safe place, being debriefed by people skilled to deal with these highly traumatised individuals."
The Prime Minister has described the case as "utterly appalling".
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