The COVID-19 pandemic has had many effects on home life beyond the obvious switch to working from home. One of them is reports of rising domestic violence across the world. As people have been told to stay at home and isolate themselves from one another, it becomes a perfect storm for abusive behavior and intimate partner violence. A Polish high school student named Krystyna Paszko is doing something about this problem. To help those in danger, she launched a fake online shop as a way to discreetly communicate with those who are trapped with their abuser in their homes.
The ingenious Facebook page acts as a lifeline for those in abusive situations. It’s called Camomiles and Pansies, and at first glance, it sells cosmetics. But beyond the pretty pictures of products is coded language that helps victims escape their dire situations. When someone writes in the chat inquiring about skin cream, a psychologist will respond as a salesperson asking how long they’ve had “skin problems.” Orders placed with an address indicate that they want authorities to visit their home.
Paszko was inspired to create this Facebook page after learning about the increase in domestic violence during the pandemic. “I heard about a French initiative,” she explains, “where people go to the pharmacy and ask for a special mask that lets the pharmacist know they are a victim of domestic violence. I thought it was a brilliant idea, so I came up with the idea of selling cosmetics.”
After sharing her plans for the page on Facebook, Paszko saw that there was a lot of public interest in it. She then contacted the Centre for Women's Rights, a Polish NGO (non-governmental organization), which set her up with psychologists and lawyers for Camomiles and Pansies. More than 350 people have used the site since its launch in April 2020; most of those who contact it are women under the age of 40.
Paszko’s idea was one of 23 projects to be awarded the EU's Civil Solidarity Prize, which recognizes organizations seeking to address the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Polish high school student Krystyna Paszko created a Facebook page called Camomiles and Pansies, where those experiencing domestic violence can reach out and get help.
“Ordering” products will indicate that they want authorities to visit their home.