Inspiration

Due to quarantine orders, crime rates of all sorts have gone down except for one: domestic abuse. Because of stay inside orders, millions of domestic abuse victims are stranded at home with their abusers. The case is worse now than ever because alcohol and drug use is at an all time high due to the crisis, which exacerbates the problem.

In addition, victims are constantly near to their abusers, since they're all stuck inside the same home, so calling helplines and other ways of reaching out are risky and possibly lethal if the abuser finds out. Before the quarantine, there were more than 20000 calls to domestic violence hotlines _ per day _. Since many of these callers aren't able to call these lines because of the risk, a lot of victims are in grave danger unless we do something to help.

We personally know people affected by this problem, and want to help give these victims the voice they deserve. That's why we've created the Undercover Crisis Helpline.

What it does

Disguised as a regular news website, our webapp is meant to provide an avenue for victims to reach out to qualified emergency responders and therapists, while fooling the aggressor into thinking it's just an ordinary news website. The "search bar" at the top of the screen seems to be an ordinary search tool for news articles, but when a user types a message into the search bar, an email is sent to the appropriate professional.

The professional (whether it be an emergency dispatcher for urgent cases or a therapist for chronic cases) will receive the email, and be able to hop onto a portal and chat directly with the victims. The texts from the professional will also be extremely discreet with how they show up on the victim's screen, invisible unless the user highlights them.

It also can provide you the latest news (since it changes every few hours or so) in case you're interested in that as well.

Check out our gallery above for a better look at what it does!

How we built it

Using a full MERN stack, we built the entire webapp in full javascript, picking up react.js for the first time. On the backend, we used MongoDB to access the database where we keep messages, and Express allowed us to handle requests for both those affected and those who are there to help. In addition, we took advantage of Twilio's SendGrid API to create an email alert system for those who are reaching out for the first time. On the frontend, we have a combination of two react sites for back and forth messaging, combined with the API offered at NewsAPI.org in order to display real news-- indeed, it functions as a real news site, with titles, snippets, and links to full articles. We tested the multiple API's we used with Postman.

Challenges we ran into

We took on this project using React because we wanted to learn something new, and we got stuck plenty of times along the way. We also realized that being locked in your house with nothing except code and a teammate on a voice call to comfort you can make you go crazy.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We're mostly proud of the idea since we know that this one website can improve or even save thousands of lives. Although this was made in just a weekend, we believe it's a proof of concept, and that as we spend more time on it, the more helpful it'll be.

We're also pretty proud to say that we're likely one of the first social good fake news websites!! Such an honor. :)

What we learned

angular > react (just a personal thing :P)

What's next for Undercover Crisis Helpline

  1. Creating multiple skins. In order to make this product unrecognizable for any aggressors, we need to have a variety of choices available for users to make it look like an online shopping website or any other plausible options
  2. Making it prettier and seem more legitimate in general
  3. Creating a network in order to spread the word about this product
  4. Building long lasting support for this project
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