As everyone around the world is affected by 2020's global pandemic, one overlooked demographic is domestic abuse victims. According to the New York Times, with families in lockdown worldwide, hotlines are lighting up with abuse reports, leaving governments trying to address a crisis that experts say they should have seen coming. In Ontario, resources and physical centres have been limited due to little budget, risk of COVID, and lack of attention and priority from staff. As we should be all supporting all women in our community, our team decided to this unaddressed issue in the form of Veil.

What it does

Veil is a web application disguised as a clothing store site. This form of concealment allows any user to access the website, without fear of their abuser finding out either in person by watching them, or through internet search histories. The “Shop” section of the site contains three types of resources, each disguised under a product. These resources are phone-lines, treatment centres and treatment services. Each resource is under a fake product name, which when clicked, can reveal the real title. The “About” page features a short description about the clothing store, but once clicked it reveals the real description of Veil, for users who are curious to know what the site is and its purpose.

Under the “Find a Store” tab, there is an interactive Google Maps that has various markers hidden as “Store Locations”, but in reality are women’s shelters in the GTA. Once clicked, they show an info box with more information about the shelter including phone number, website and address.

How we built it

The site was built using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. We also used the Google Maps Javascript API to display locations and hosted the website through GitHub pages. We used Visual Studio to code simultaneously as well as Git and Github for source version control.

Challenges we ran into

We were planning to implement a web scraping tool that uses the Puppeteer Node Library but had issues connecting the back, front end and TypeORM. This would have made the location-based resource finding more accurate and plentiful. A challenge throughout this project was finding methods to make this web app as intuitive as possible for the user, while also concealing it from abusers. We were able to successfully do this by creating on click event listeners to change the text on several sites. Veil has an easy to use UI that allows for completely discrete viewing.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

This hackathon has been a huge learning experience for all of us, but what we are most proud of is having a functional model of an idea that we came up with less than 36 hours ago! This web app is something we know has the capacity to help a very vulnerable demographic in Ontario, but even beyond. We're so proud to be using our tech skills to help make a change in the world.

What we learned

We were able to learn the basics of web scraping, how to use the Google Maps API, hosting a site as well as using Git and Github for version control!

What's next for Veil

Next for Veil, we hope that we can scale it but using effective marketing to spread the word to domestic abuse victims without abusers having knowledge of this. We would also want to add our web scraping feature so the location-based resource finding is more accurate.

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