Polish teenager Krysia Paszko”s cosmetics website is not what it seems.
The site, which translates as Camomiles and Violas, is listed on Facebook as a place where you can buy and sell natural products, and those interested in doing so are encouraged to send the 18-year-old a private message.
But what the site actually does is allow women in Poland that are suffering domestic violence to report their abusers.
Krysia launched the initiative after reading about a similar anti-abuse drive in France, which allowed women to report domestic violence in French pharmacies by using a code word when speaking to staff.
There are similar schemes in Spain, Belgium and Italy, where a woman reported an abusive partner during the coronavirus lockdown by calling the police and pretending she was ordering a pizza.
Domestic violence is on the rise across the world as coronavirus lockdowns have kept many women at home with abusive partners. The United Nations (UN) has defined violence against women during the COVID-19 health crisis as “the shadow pandemic”.
When women log on to Paszko’s site, they are asked questions about skin problems, how long they have had them for and whether children are affected too.
Their answers are then forwarded on to Polish organisations fighting domestic violence, which then contact the police.
Krysia says 350 women have already used the page to get help.
“At first I posted it on Facebook, and I thought it would only be used by friends, but then I decided to create the website to have a large-scale impact,” she told Euronews.
“And then I got in touch with the largest Polish organization specializing in helping victims of domestic violence.”
Domestic violence in Poland
Several countries in the world have reported a peak in the number of calls for help from women in the first months of the pandemic.
Poland is one of the countries with the worst records for gender-based violence in the European Union, according to a report by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA).
Official 2019 figures revealed that while more than 65,000 women and 12,000 children in Poland reported domestic violence, only 2,527 investigations were opened.
Amnesty International says this why few women dare to complain: they do not trust the criminal justice system and fear that they will not be believed.
Krysia believes that domestic violence is an endemic problem in her country and that the government could do more to combat it.
She has been awarded the European Civil Solidarity Prize awarded by the European Economic and Social Committee of the European Union.