Could nail varnish prevent rape?

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Four students from North Carolina State University have developed a new nail varnish that is not only stylish, but will also revolutionise the way people will approach both one another and ‘nights out’ themselves.

The four male undergraduate students have focused on the idea of prevention of rape in creating a nail varnish that detects common ‘date rape’ drugs when the wearer dips their fingers in the beverage concerned. This unique nail varnish can suss out the likes of Rophypnol, Xanax and gamma-hydroxybutyric (GHB) in liquid substances, known commonly as ‘roofies’; such drugs incapacitate victims, effectively paralysing them, prohibiting them from resisting and calling for help. As well as this, roofies usually result in amnesia; possibly causing the victim to confuse it with any alcohol they may have previously consumed, and usually do not stay in the system long enough for the victim to visit a doctor.

Date-rape-detecting nail polish could prove to be extremely useful in circumstances such as clubs where it is often difficult to keep an eye on your drink. These situations arise more often that the majority believe; in the UK, as many as 1/10 people have had their drinks spiked, with many cases involving someone the victim actually knows.

P11 keith williamsonThe undergraduates, Ankesh Madan, Stephen Gray, Tasso Von Windheim and Tyler Confrey-Maloney, who have labelled themselves as ‘Undercover Colors’, explained: “while date rape drugs are often used to facilitate sexual assault, very little science exists for their detection…our goal is to invent technologies that empower women to protect themselves from this heinous and quietly pervasive crime.”

The nail varnish quickly became viral on social media, promoting the ideal that instead of victims being concerned with the fear of being raped there will be a shift, resulting in the perpetrators fearing getting caught. This was confirmed on ‘Undercover Colors’ Facebook page by co-founder Tyler Confrey-Maloney. The use of prevention will not only aid in detecting potential rapists, but also protect potential victims from the possible psychological and physical trauma after being violated, enabling the wearer to protect themselves from attackers and report any suspicious activity.

However, the new easy-to-use date rape detector has received negative backlash from various people, including Katie Russel from the Rape Crisis England & Wales charity, explaining that it will not support the initiative due to gender bias. Russel explained: “whilst ‘Undercover Colors’ initiative is well-meaning, on the whole, Rape Crisis does not endorse or promote such a product or anything similar. This is for three reasons: it implies that it’s the woman’s fault and assumes responsibility on her behalf, and detracts from the real issues that arise from sexual violence.” The charity’s representative also went on to explain that by forcing the person to wear the nail varnish they could be deemed either irresponsible in not wearing the varnish at the time of the attack or, even worse, responsible for the attack themselves. “For us, we work with victims to make them realise that they did nothing wrong…products like this suggest otherwise. The emphasis must be placed 100% on the perpetrator.” The Guardian columnist, Jessica Valenti, also criticised the product, supporting Russel, stating that “prevention tips or products that focus on what women do or wear aren’t just ineffective, they leave room for victim-blaming when those steps aren’t taken.”

However, although the nail varnish could be labelled as a possible sexist product and could lead to judgements with regards to responsibility, it is an indispensable tool in the effort to reduce sexual abuse. It is not the sole product available and the idea promoted by the innovative team of students is to use it alongside other date rape prevention products. ‘Undercover Colors’ has already caught the attention of Kickstarter, an American company that funds creative products worldwide.

The product gives the consumer back control in potentially dangerous social situations, which is lost when such circumstances involve intoxication. ‘Undercover Colors’ have landed themselves in a media storm and many are hopeful that Kickstarter will fund the initiative to prevent sexual abuse in future situations.

Photo by Keith Williamson 

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About Author

Alex Egan is a former Features Editor at bathimpact (2014/15). She writes on politics – both national and international – as well as business.

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