Posted8 avril 2021, 07:12
An 18-year-old Polish woman has created a website that masquerades as a beauty store but offers help to victims of domestic violence.
Worried about an increase in cases of domestic violence during confinement, Krysia Paszko, an 18-year-old Polish woman, has created a website that masquerades as a cosmetics store but in fact offers secret help to victims.
“I was inspired by this idea found in France where, by going to the pharmacy and asking for mask number 19, you could report that you were a victim of abuse,” this high school student from Warsaw. The teenager felt that Poland would also need some sort of code during the pandemic, as families remain locked up 24 hours a day under one roof, with greater risks of stress and violence.
During the first lockdown, the Center for Women’s Rights, a Polish NGO, observed a 50% increase in calls to its anonymous emergency number which offers support in cases of domestic violence. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also noted an increase in this kind of abuse in Europe.
Krysia Paszko set up her Rumianki i Bratki (Camomiles and Pansies) store on Facebook in April 2020. With photos of lavender soap and sage cleansing masks, the fake store looks very real. But instead of the vendors, on the other side of the screen is a volunteer team of psychologists from the Center for Women’s Rights.
“If someone places an order and provides their address, it is a signal to us that police action is needed immediately,” explains the high school student.
Physical or psychological abuse
Those who just want to talk will ask for more information about a product, which will lead psychologists to ask coded questions such as “how does a person’s skin react to alcohol?” Or are children’s cosmetics also necessary? ”She says. So far, the team has helped around 350 people, including free legal advice and action plans.
Krysia Paszko points out that “the more restrictions there are, the harder it is to leave the house and even see a friend, the more people write to us”. “And often abusers become more active when times are tough, when there are more infections, restrictions, fear of the pandemic.” The majority of those who contact the site are women under the age of 30. Abuse can be physical or psychological, on the part of a partner or a parent.
Between 10 and 20% of cases resulted in a call to the police. “I remember a young woman who was watched so constantly by her partner that she could only write to us when she was bathing her child,” said Krysia Paszko.
The woman had previously tried to break up the relationship, but her alcoholic and abusive partner refused to move out. Thanks to the intervention of his team, the police came and “gave him back his keys, informing him of the consequences if he returned”, said Krysia Paszko, “Fortunately, the violence was over.”
For her efforts, Krysia Paszko was awarded the European Union Civil Solidarity Prize, a reward of 10,000 euros for initiatives related to Covid.
The young woman regrets that the problem of domestic violence in Poland “is somewhat ignored and neglected. Further government support is needed ”. Led by the nationalist conservatives of Law and Justice (PiS), Poland wants to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, a historic international treaty against violence against women.
Last year, the Polish Minister of Justice announced that he had launched the process of withdrawing from the treaty, arguing that it contained provisions which undermine conservative family values and which are “of an ideological nature”. Despite strong protests in Poland and abroad, the process continues.
Last week, conservatives and far-right MPs backed a pro-withdrawal bill titled “Yes to family, no to gender”. The project was sent to a parliamentary committee, despite strong opposition from other deputies wishing to bury it. The project initiated by the ultra-conservative organization Ordo Iuris proposes a new convention which notably prohibits abortion and same-sex marriage.
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