NAISARGI PATEL

You may think that you can trust someone you are going out with or someone that you meet at a party, but they may have a different idea about where the night is going.

Ankesh Madan, Stephen Gray, Tasso Von Windheim and Tyler Confrey-Maloney, students from the North Carolina State University, have combined cosmetics and chemistry to invent brand of nail polish Undercover Colours, which detects drugs in spiked drinks. If you dip your finger into a spiked drink, the polish changes colour.

An article titled “Controversy over student nail varnish date rape drug detector” by Natalie Ilsley, published on NewsWeek.com, says that the students created the polish in an aim to empower women and address the issue of date rape.

The nail polish detects the presence of ketamine (“Special K”), Rohypnol (“Roofies”), alprazolam (Xanax), and gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB or “liquid ecstasy”).

According to “Date rape facts” by John Cunha, posted on Medicine.net, ketamine is found in the form of a pill or liquid and has a quick effect on the body. Someone who has consumed it may be aware of their surroundings, but their movement may be restricted. Numbness and loss of memory are also symptoms. Rohypnol comes in the form of pills which dissolve in liquids and can take up to 30 minutes to start affecting the body. It turns light-coloured drinks into a bright blue, but it can become difficult to identify the change in darker drinks such as Coca-Cola.Xanax is generally used as an anti-anxiety and a panic disorder medicine. It affects the central nervous system and creates a calming and relaxing sensation. GHB comes in the form of a pill or a liquid with or without odour. It gives a salty taste to drinks, but it can be concealed by the sweetness in a drink such as a fruit juice.

Although Undercover Colours allows potential victims to detect trouble, there are various shortfalls to it. It is limited to detecting only these four drugs, while there are other drugs such as chloral hydrate (also known as “Mikey” or “Mickey Finn”) that can also be used by perpetrators. Alcohol can also act as a drug if it is consumed to the extent of drowsiness.

The article “What ‘Undercover Colours’ gets all wrong about date rape” by Sophia Kerby published on HuffingtonPost.com, says that date rape does not only happen in bars and that the burden of safety is shifted back onto women with such products. “Why a new nail polish cannot gloss over rape culture” by Jake Flanagin, posted on NYTimes.com, says that we should be trying to stop rape all together and not just avoid it on an individual basis.

According to Ilsley’s article, Katie Russell from Rape Crisis England & Wales says, “Whilst Undercover Colour’s 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.”

There are various products which were invented in the past for a similar purpose as Undercover Colours. “Can new technologies really help prevent date rape?” by Robert Szczerba posted on Forbes.com, mentions a straw which looks regular, but lights up when it comes into contact with drugs. In the article “Students develop nail polish to detect date rape drugs”, published on WashingtonPost.com, Gail Sullivan mentions pepper spray which looks like a regular camera.

No matter the place or country, rape is highly prevalent all around the world. According to a survey conducted on CrimeStatsSA.com, rape occurs the second least in South Africa in comparison to other kinds of crime. It constitutes 3% of the total crimes and drug related crimes are the lowest at 2%. The highest occurring crimes are robberies and burglaries at 46%.

In 2013, 66 197 accounts of sexual crimes were accounted for in South Africa. Gauteng has the highest total crime rate of 27% in the country. In 2013, 12 213 instances of sexual crimes were reported in Gauteng alone. According to RapeCrisis.org.za, the conviction rate for rape cases in Gauteng is 4%.

The student counselling services website of the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia gives a few tips to men and women. When saying “no”, do not smile in order to cushion the other person’s feelings because the smile also covers up how you really feel. Be loud when saying so to make sure that a few people hear you. Do not give in just to avoid “creating a scene”. Perhaps a “scene” is what is needed in order for you to show the other person that what they are doing is wrong or that you are uncomfortable with their actions or intentions. Do not trust someone that you have just met enough to go home alone with them.

Drinking a lot of alcohol also impairs judgement. Therefore, do not drink beyond your limit and never leave your drinks unattended. Keep an eye on someone who has not had a lot to drink, but still appears to be intoxicated.

Remaining highly vigilant at all times is very important. Trusting someone that you have just met or even someone that you have known for a few weeks too easily could be risky. Always be prepared to defend yourself against perpetrators at any place and time. Although rape is a delicate subject, reporting the crime is just as important as being brave.

 

Image: mypinkgrasshopper.com

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