Is the new date-rape drug test another ‘gimmick’ that perpetuates rape culture?

September 10th, 2018
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Date-rape drugs are substances used to facilitate sexual assault. Apparently, these drugs are often given to the person without his or her knowledge; it is also hard to identify whether the drink has been drugged or not since these are odorless and tasteless.  

As a result, victims can be confused — or worse, pass out — so that they can’t consent to sex. In unfortunate situations like this, both men and women can be a victim of date-rape drugs.

This horrible incident usually happens at parties where perpetrators can easily slip drugs in your drinks. With this, a tech startup based in Raleigh, North Carolina recently developed a way to find out whether your drink has been exposed to some of the most common date-rape drugs to prevent “rape parties” or victims susceptible to a drug-facilitated sexual assault.

photo credit: Undercover Colors

After the “magical” nail polish that can protect women from rape traps, the brand Undercover Colors has launched a kit that can tell if your beverage has been tampered with.

The company behind the idea was founded by four students from the University of North Carolina and Barbara Cook, the CEO of Undercover Colors. In an interview by Moneyish, Cook shared that the date-rape issue is personal: “Initially, the idea was to find out very quickly if a drink had been spiked — and it was born out of personal experience.”

“The original idea was a female-led product based around nails and nail polish that changed color if a drink contained drugs, but we decided to make the actual product in a gender neutral format,” she added.

To use the test, the user places a few drops of liquid such as beer, wine or a cocktail onto the discreet, quarter-sized testing medallion and in thirty seconds to three minutes, result lines appear.  This works quite similar to a pregnancy test: one line means your drink is contaminated with Xanax, Diazepam or Rohypnol and two lines mean you’re in the clear.

photo credit: Undercover Colors

Dr. Nick Letourneau, the director of research and development for the company, told Moneyish the test kit works in more than 100 types of liquid (though it wasn’t tested yet for other substances like GHB or ketamine, which are also commonly used as date-rape drugs) like wine, beer, and mixed cocktails.

“We want to be able to detect as many drugs in as many beverages as possible,” he said.

After the launch of the product, it is believed that this kit is a much-needed addition to women’s lives. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, in the United States, one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives.

Nearly one in ten women has been raped by an intimate partner in her lifetime, which includes alcohol or drug-facilitated completed penetration, meaning she was under the influence of a substance. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted.

However in Britain, statistics shows that hundreds of people of all genders can be victims of drink spikings every year. Under UK law, spiking someone’s drink with drugs is illegal for any reason at all and carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

If the spiking is accompanied by a rape, assault or robbery, the sentence will be even higher.

In 2014, four male college students from North Carolina State University struck a way to detect date-rape drugs in the form of nail polish. The creators said that the idea came from someone they knew who had been the victim of sexual assault.

Although the invention garnered praises here and there, it also received adverse reactions from people who believed that the nail polish placed the responsibility for not getting date raped on to those who might be victims of this crime.

we are developing anti rape shorts and date rape nail polish detectors, but who's teaching men not to rape or drug their dates?

— alicia (@aiiciia) August 13, 2015

Just like the backlash against the nail polish product, it’s likely that the new date-rape drug test from Undercover Colors will receive the same criticism.

Now the question is, will this new product help in “promoting safety” or will it become just one of those inventions that makes preventing rape the responsibility of the victim?

It’s devastating how victim-blaming is still rampant in our culture. In the Philippines, Angono police rape prevention guidelines received heavy criticisms from netizens as it came out more like promoting victim-blaming and trivializing violence against women.

Because of this concept called “rape culture,” we now have to be incessantly vigilant to the extent of consuming these manicure-changing products or drug test kits just to avoid getting raped.

And instead of banking on preventions, it would be best to educate everyone about sexual assault. You know, a little rape-culture competency wouldn’t hurt.

Read more from InqPOP!: 

Under any context, rape jokes are never okay and not funny

10 Ways we can actually end rape

Jason Momoa is #cancelledt from fans after distasteful rape joke

Just so you know, RAPE IS NOT A JOKE

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