Polished for Protection?

The other day, I saw a story about some students who are attempting to develop a nail polish that reacts to the presence of date-rape drugs.

I have some reservations.

From what I’ve read, there is a chance this product won’t work like we are all thinking it will work, as the technology that makes it possible is limited and unreliable. It could lead to false positives and won’t necessarily react quickly or to all possible substances.

That aside, say it did work and you got a positive result- what then? Do you refuse the drink and leave the venue, leaving this person to move on to their next target? Or do you somehow call the police without him noticing and hope they arrive before he gets suspicious and leaves? 

It’s difficult to see what the practical application will be like.

Drink spiking is thought to be an under reported crime in Australia, so it’s hard to say how often it happens exactly. One thing I have read here on the Australian Drug Foundation site and also on various police and crime statistic websites is that the most common drug used to spike drinks is something extremely easy to obtain- alcohol. Someone could theoretically buy you a vodka and add an extra shot, giving you double the alcohol over the course of a few drinks. In this scenario, the nail polish would only serve to give the wearer a false sense of security.

I think it bears mentioning that the vast majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone known to the victim– a friend, a partner, a relative. How likely is it that we would test a drink bought for us by a friend? Because while the stranger attack scenario does happen, it isn’t at all as common as shows like SVU would have you think.

The idea is just that at present, while the young men behind it attempt to crowd fund for the required research and manufacture. It has received a lot of support. I just can’t help but think this is another way for women to be expected to prevent sexual assault which will eventually lead to victim blaming. Think about things like “She walked there at night/wore that dress/got so drunk so she was kinda asking for it!” Will we be adding “She didn’t wear her drug detection nail polish when she went out so…..” to the list?

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