Nail Polish and Date Rape Drugs

Photo by Evan Swigart.

Photo by Evan Swigart.

I’m sure many of my readers have already read about Uncover Colors, the nail polish in development that is intended to help people detect when their drinks have been spiked with date rape drugs. Someone I follow on Twitter asked me to blog about it for today’s post.

I could very well see it becoming something that’s widely available and commonly used if the creators are able to drum up enough investors in the product. With that being said, I have reservations about it.

My first concern is how that would change western culture. Women are already expected to do a long list of things to keep themselves safe every single day. If a woman is sexually assaulted, the first questions she’s asked are about whether or not she followed all of the rules on this invisible checklist. Why did she choose to be alone with him? Was she wearing a short skirt? Was she drinking? How much makeup was she wearing? What made her think that he was trustworthy? Is she sure this wasn’t just all a big misunderstanding?

(Yes, men are assaulted as well. At this point, though, Undercover Colors is only being discussed as something that will be marketed to women).

The last thing we need is to make this list any longer or blame victims any more than our culture already does. I’m extremely wary of people who are way more interested in talking about what the victim was (or wasn’t) doing than they do on the fact that a crime was committed.

My second concern has to do with the statistics of sexual assault. 80% of  victims are assaulted in their own homes, and 70% of their assailants are people the victim knows: a partner, a family member, a friend. The vast majority of assaults don’t involve date rape drugs at all. If there’s no alcohol or drugs that might be mixed into it, this nail polish won’t help at all.

I understand why this story has generated so much press. It’s exciting to think that such a small change in one’s daily habits could prevent something horrible from happening, but it’s not that simple.

What I would like to see happen as a result of this product is a shift in our attention. What if it lead to serious social (if not legal) consequences for people who assault others as well as for those who defend them? What if other cities copied Vancouver’s highly successful Don’t Be That Guy campaign?

There are ways to change public opinion and reduce the number of people who are being assaulted every year. We’ve discovered a few of them. I have a hunch that there are much better ones yet to come. It won’t happen overnight, but I can see it shifting slowly from one generation to the next.


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