Meet the Yorkshire lawyer who is determined to protect domestic violence victims

Employers can play a major role in protecting victims of domestic violence, according to Tiggy Clifford. She spoke to Deputy Business Editor Greg Wright.

LOCKDOWN was a living hell for victims of domestic abuse, who were often unable to find any escape route from their tormentor.

Statistics provided by IDAS, the specialist charity in Yorkshire which supports anyone experiencing abuse or sexual violence, paint a bleak picture.

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During the pandemic, the charity’s helpline has been taking around 380 calls a week from victims who are desperate for support.

Employers can play a major role in protecting victims of domestic violence, according to Tiggy Clifford. She spoke to Deputy Business Editor Greg Wright.

In normal times, the workplace can be a place of refuge for domestic violence victims. Lockdown removed this temporary sanctuary. This doesn’t, however, mean that concerned human resources professionals and employment lawyers have been unable to act.

York-based Torque Law is a member of The Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse, which brings together corporate leaders who are determined to make a difference.

Torque Law has also formed a corporate partnership with IDAS, whose services include providing refuge accommodation, community-based support, peer mentoring, group work and access to a free, confidential out of hours’ helpline.

Tiggy Clifford, a partner at Torque Law, said: “We also received a number of enquiries from clients who were concerned that some of their staff members were potentially suffering from domestic abuse, which was particularly troubling when they were at home during lockdown.”

She added: “They had noticed changes of behaviour which were red flags for potential cases of domestic abuse.

“Our clients in human resources found some quite challenging scenarios and we provided advice about options that were open to them to provide support.”

Three-quarters of women’s organisations have reported an increase in demand for services since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a report published last year, Agenda, a charity that campaigns for women and girls at risk, said increased poverty, rising unemployment, soaring rates of domestic abuse and challenges accessing support have led to a growing crisis in women and girls’ mental health.

Torque Law has previously worked with KYRA, which provides support for vulnerable women through workshops and confidence-building exercises.

Ms Clifford said: “For International Women’s Day we spoke at an event to provide tips about becoming financially independent through work.”

She encouraged participants to think about the sorts of work they would like to do and then carry out research about the opportunities for that work online.

“With IDAS we make a monthly financial contribution to the charity’s work and are planning work to help revamp the rooms within the refuge itself.

“We are also looking to help collect supplies to help ensure that families leaving the refuge are sent out with essential supplies and fresh bedding. Through our work, we have encouraged our clients to help people who were known or suspected to be victims facing abuse to feel safer,” Ms Clifford said.

“We can help signpost our clients to organisations that can help their staff members. These issues can be tricky, but they must be raised if employers are to play a part in tackling domestic abuse.”

Torque Law, which is a specialist employment law practice, was established in 2016 by Tiggy Clifford and Emma Whiting, who were friends with the same vision about how a law firm should operate.