Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Date-rape-drug nail polish criticized by advocates against sexual violence

From:  Lehigh Valley Live

There are numerous ways to prevent date rape. Wearing special nail polish isn't high on the list, according to advocates against sexual violence.

The advocates are skeptical of the value of a new product being developed by a group of North Carolina State University students. Their company, Undercover Colors, is developing a nail polish that changes colors when a woman puts her fingertip in a drink that contains drugs like Rohypnol, according to The Associated Press.

Stories about the product have gone viral and appeared in American and British newspapers.

The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape warned Wednesday that the product could do more harm than good.

"The promotion of products such as this nail polish as 'rape prevention' are actually a distraction from other more meaningful prevention efforts," said Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape spokeswoman Kristen Houser.

Suzanne Beck, executive director of the Crime Victims Council of the Lehigh Valley, agrees. The nail polish, for instance, won't help a young woman who has had too much to drink from being victimized, she said.

"The most commonly used date rape drug is alcohol," Beck said.

College students are in a time of the year called the "red zone," which lasts from the first day of school through Thanksgiving. That's when first-year students are the most vulnerable to sexual assaults. Beck said her organization was at Lehigh University in Bethlehem last week to make sure young students know how to protect themselves.

She offers a few basic tips: Keep your drink near you and keep it covered; know your surroundings; and stay near people you trust who will intervene if necessary.

Marketing the nail polish as a product that prevents rape implies the victim is responsible for the crime, according to the Pennsylvania coalition.

"Though the invention may be well-intentioned, the promotion of its use specifically to women to 'prevent rape' transfers the responsibility to stop the perpetration of sexual assault from those that commit this offense or those who may observe the perpetrator's intentions toward the victim," says a statement from the coalition.

Undercover Colors doesn't have a phone listing on its website, and the company did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

On the Undercover Colors Facebook page, company co-founder Tyler Confrey-Maloney stressed the product is not available for sale. The developers seek crowdfunding capital and are soliciting donations on their website.

The News and Observer of Raleigh reported the students aren't giving interviews.

Confrey-Maloney thanked fans of the product.

"We have been astounded and uplifted by your feedback," he said. "We are committed to bringing this product to market in the quickest time frame we can muster."

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FACTS ABOUT RAPE
  • About one in six women in the United States has experienced rape or attempted rape. Fewer than one-fifth of these incidents are perpetrated by strangers, and at least half of all acquaintance sexual assaults involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, the victim, or, most commonly, both.
  • Over the course of an average 5-year college career, it is estimated that between 20 and 25 percent of college women will become victims of rape or attempted rape.
  • 2.4 percent of female undergrads who had been sexually assaulted suspected they had been slipped a drug.

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