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Nail polish to protect from date rape drugs

College students can now feel safer with the invention of “Undercover Colors,” a nail polish that changes color in the presence of the most commonly used date rape drugs. These drugs include Rohypnol, Xanax, and Gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB).

The inventors, Ankesh Madan, Stephen Grey, Tasso Von Windheim and Tyler Confrey-Maloney, are currently attending North Carolina State University as undergraduates. In creating the polish they hope to provide women with a means of subtly protecting themselves from potential attackers.

“Our goal,” the men state on their product Facebook page, “is to invent technologies that empower women to protect themselves from this heinous and quietly pervasive crime. With our nail polish, any woman will be empowered to discreetly ensure her safety by simply stirring her drink with her finger. If her nail polish changes color, she’ll know that something is wrong.”

Despite the positive effects these inventors hope to garner, however, the product has still raised some concerns with feminist groups such as Feministing, a feminist website, and FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, an activist group. Rebecca Nagle, one of the co-directors of FORCE, argues that although the creators are well-meaning, their product perpetuates the placement of blame on the victims, rather than address the actual problem a rape.

“Women are already expected to work hard to prevent themselves from becoming the victims of sexual assault,” said an article on ThinkProgress, a political blog. “They’re told to avoid wearing revealing clothing, travel in groups, make sure they don’t get too drunk, and always keep a close eye on their drink.”

The author of this article said that encouraging and expecting the use of preventative products can lead to blaming the victim for failing to take every preventative measure possible to avert rape. The author also argues that men should be taught that sexual assault is unacceptable in order to successfully reduce its occurrence.

Advocates for this advancement claim the opposite effect. The nail polish provides women with a means of controlling what happens to their bodies, they argue, and men are already taught that rape is immoral.

“This nail polish could really help victims feel safer and more empowered, and if it can help more diagnoses happen then that’s all the better,” said Ariane Jansma, a chemistry professor at PLNU. “The hardest thing about testing for date rape drugs is that by the time a person gets to the hospital and is tested, the drugs are almost out of their system and it’s hard to figure out what’s wrong with them. If the creators can create a means of immediate diagnosis of these drugs then that will make it that much easier on the hospital’s end to determine the best way to treat them.”

Feminist writer Charlotte Allen states that although unfortunate, it is incomprehensible for women to not take preventative action and to place the issue of their well-being into the hands of those who could hurt them.

There are bad people out there,” said Allen in a New York Times article on the subject. “[These people] commit rape — and murders, muggings, robberies, burglaries and Internet hackings. Saying ‘Don’t rape’ is all well and good, but it’s no more going to prevent rape than saying ‘Don’t murder’ to a gang shooter.”

Although the nail polish is not yet sold on the market, the goal of the inventors continues to be the prevention of a crime.

“We hope to make potential perpetrators afraid to spike a woman’s drink because there’s now a risk that they can get caught,” the “Undercover Colors” Facebook page states. “In effect, we want to shift the fear from the victims to the perpetrators.”

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