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How One Teen Is Using A Fake Beauty Site To Help Victims Of Domestic Violence

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Teen Creates Fake Beauty Site To Help Domestic Abuse Victims

A Polish teenager is helping domestic abuse victims out of danger one fake cosmetic product at a time.

After learning about the rise of domestic abuse cases during coronavirus lockdown, Krystyna Paszko set up a fake online beauty store that allows victims to access support safely and discreetly from home.

Paszko, who was 17 when she first launched the website, was inspired by a French initiative where people can go to pharmacies and use the codeword “mask 19” to inform workers that they are experiencing domestic violence.

Concerned that victims in Poland did not have the same kind of support, she established “Rumianki i Bratki” or “Camomiles and Pansies” on Facebook in April 2020.

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Recently she was the recipient of a $12,000 European Union Civil Solidarity Prize, a contest that rewards civil society organizations tackling the consequences of the pandemic.

Her fake online store provides a safe and easy way for victims of domestic abuse to get help.

The premise of the store is to give victims a safe place to ask for help or open up about their abuse without risking their abuser finding out.

Through coded messages and product descriptions, women can reach out to psychologists and authorities via the store.

"If someone places an order and provides their address, that's a signal for us that a police response is required right then and there," said Paszko. Using the address and shipping details provided, Paszko’s team will send authorities to the victim's home.

If someone simply wants to talk, they can use the chat feature to connect with a psychologist doubling as a salesperson who will discreetly gather more information with questions about how long the person’s “skin problems” have been going on for, do these “skin problems” react to alcohol, are “children’s cosmetics” also needed.

Paszko works in tandem with a women’s rights center in Poland who provide psychological and legal assistance via the site.

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The pandemic has made it harder for domestic abuse victims to access support.

Without being able to see friends or family, or to easily access domestic violence shelters, abuse victims are more vulnerable than ever.

Many cannot risk even sending messages to alert others about their situation, making Paszko’s store and the privacy it enables so essential.

Since its launch, more than 350 people have contacted the website. Most of the victims are young, under 40, and about 10% are male.

These younger victims tend to feel less comfortable talking on the phone, especially if their abuser is present, so having a chance to chat online can be life-changing.

"I remember this one young woman who was under such constant surveillance by her partner that she could only write to us when she was bathing her child," Paszko recalled.

The woman had attempted to leave her abuser but he had refused to move out, leaving her and her child trapped under his control.

After Paszko’s team intervened, the police forced the man to vacate the home and put measures in place to prevent him from returning.

If you are in need of domestic violence support in the U.S. for you or someone you know, you can reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline any time of day by calling 1−800−799−7233.

RELATED: A Step-By-Step Plan For Fleeing Domestic Violence During Coronavirus

Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment. Keep up with her on Twitter for more.