Nail Polish Invention Seeks to Prevent Rape and Stirs Debate of Victim Blaming

BY ERIN EVASHEVSKI – The latest statement in fashion is in, and there is more to it than just looks. Four students at North Carolina State University have created a nail polish that is able to detect certain drugs associated with date rape. To use, women simply apply the paint, swirl their finger in their drink, and the nail polish will change color if one of these drugs has been slipped into the drink. In establishing their company called “Undercover Colors,” the group of students aims to empower women and fight back against sexual assault. [1]

News of the innovation has captured the attention of the nation, but not without sparking a storm of controversy. Many critics of the varnish feel that the creators are missing the point and perpetuating the victim blaming that runs through the culture of rape. Like so many other “rape preventing devices” the nail polish has been accused of being just another way to place the responsibility of not being raped onto the victims. [2]

This dispute comes at a time when sexual assaults rates on college campuses shock the conscience and all eyes are on the prevention of this violence. According to a survey done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 1 in 5 women in our country have been raped at some point in their lives. Further, approximately 1 in 2 women have experienced other forms of sexual violence abuse. [3] Earlier this year President Obama established a task force focusing on “sharing best practices, and increasing transparency, enforcement, public awareness, and interagency coordination to prevent violence and support survivors.” [4]

California took a big step in the direction of the president’s goal when its Senate unanimously passed the “yes means yes” bill requiring all colleges receiving state funding to adopt an affirmative consent policy when handling sexual assault claims. Meant to replace the “no means no” phrase often associated with definitions of rape, the new policy will not allow situations in which a victim is too incapacitated to consciously consent to sex to be viewed as voluntary. [5]

Of course, responsibility for sexual violence falls completely in the hands of those inflicting the harm on their victims and true prevention measures must focus on stopping it at the source. Yet, while efforts are shifting to prevention through education and enforcement at the legislative level, sexual assault remains an epidemic in this country. Implementation of rape prevention programs and education over the last forty years has failed to decrease the rate of sexual assaults. [6] Although it does not resolve the real issue at hand, the founders of Undercover Color hope that their product will “shift the fear from the victims to the perpetrators, creating a risk that they might actually start to get caught.” [7] Until we live in a world where sexual assault is not a real concern that men and women face, inventions such as this nail polish can provide a sense of empowerment for potential victims.

 

[1] http://www.newsweek.com/controversy-over-nail-varnish-date-rape-drug-detector-267126

[2] http://www.newsweek.com/controversy-over-nail-varnish-date-rape-drug-detector-267126

[3] http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/rpe/

[4] http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/01/22/renewed-call-action-end-rape-and-sexual-assault

[5] http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/08/29/california-bill-defines-what-it-means-to-say-yes-to-sex/

[6] http://www.post-gazette.com/life/lifestyle/2014/09/02/Nail-polish-date-rap-test-called-misguided/stories/201409020023

[7] http://www.newsweek.com/controversy-over-nail-varnish-date-rape-drug-detector-267126

 

 

Erin Evashevski is a 2016 Staff Editor of the Race and Social Justice Law Review.

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