The Genius Inventions That Could Prevent Date Rape

Entrepreneurs are creating nail polish, drink IDs, and apps to keep you safe on your night out.

(Photo: Leslie Thompson/Getty Images)

Staff Writer Nicole Pasulka has written for Mother Jones, BuzzFeed, The Believer, and New York Observer. She lives in New York City.

What if you could tell whether someone had slipped a date rape drug into your drink just by the color of your nail polish?

In the spring, the idea for Undercover Colors, a nail polish that changes color when the wearer dips a finger into a drink that contains drugs such as Rohypnol or GHB, won a student competition at North Carolina State University. 

"All of us have been close to someone who has been through this terrible experience, and we began to focus on finding a way to help prevent the crime," Ankesh Madan, a member of the team that came up with the concept, told Higher Education Works. "We wanted to focus on preventive solutions, especially those that could be integrated into products that women already use."

Now the engineering undergrads are fund-raising to take the idea to the next level. Their goal is to help women stay safe while drinking. One in five women report having been raped at some point, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's not only women who might want to wear the nail polish; guys are sometimes on the receiving end of spiked drinks too. According to the CDC, one in 71 men has been the victim of rape.

The Undercover Colors group got $100,000 from an investor and received $11,250 in prize money. It has been fine-tuning the prototype for the polish and is focusing on market testing.

Undercover Colors is one of many clever technologies addressing the widespread problem of violence against women. 

In 2012, Nancy Schwartzman, a developer and an anti-violence activist, created the Circle of 6 iPhone app. The app allows users to message a trusted circle of friends for help or support if things get dangerous or intense. It can also contact local hotlines or emergency numbers.   

Developers are fund-raising to develop and distribute pd.id, or personal drink ID. It's a portable, reusable device that takes a small sample of a drink to determine if it's been spiked or tampered with. The Drink Savvy cup monitors your beverage and changes color in the presence of date-rape drugs. 

For those who don’t want to wait for those innovations to become widely available, Drink Safe makes test strips and coasters that evaluate drinks for foreign substances and cost about 50 cents per test.

While they're cool and useful, none of these inventions can end sexual assault or violence against women. The only way to stop rape is to stop perpetrators. Until that happens, these products offer a little high-tech peace of mind.

"I feel like if I had known about these [Drink Safe] strips, I would have made every single one of my girlfriends carry one," Adrienne Gang, a reality TV star who has no memory of what happened after she was drugged at a bar one night, told the Tampa Bay Times. "Because why would you not? It's an added layer of protection."

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