By Miranda Pabst
USciences.edu found that approximately 90% of all date rapes involved alcohol. They also found that approximately one in four college aged women experience date rape or go through an attempted date rape during their education. Four men are on a mission to help end date rape. Ankesh Madan, Stephen Gray, Tasso Von Windheim, and Tyler Confrey-Maloney are undergraduate students at North Carolina State University (NCSU). While studying Materials Science & Engineering they formulated an idea to create a product to help prevent and protect women from date rape.
Higher Education Works is an organization at NCSU that campaigns for students and their innovations by promoting the importance of public investors. They released a statement describing Madan’s personal connection to the product. “All of us have been close to someone who has been through the terrible experience, and we began to focus on preventive solutions, especially those that could be integrated into products that women already use. And so the idea of creating a nail polish that detects date rape drugs was born.”
Undercover Color is line of nail polishes designed to react to the chemicals commonly found in date rape drugs. The idea is that the women wearing the nail polish would dip their finger into their drinks before taking a sip. If the color of their polish changes, that would indicate that their drink could contain Rohypnol, Xanax, and/or GHB, which are common date rape drugs. According to womenshealth.gov, they report Rohypnol and GHB are two of the three most commonly used date rape drugs.
The Carolina State Entrepreneurship Initiative held a contest for students who worked together to create solutions to real world issues, Undercover Color won $11,250. In addition, at the K50 Startup Showcase, Undercover Color won $100,00 from an investor who took an interest in their demonstration. The group’s Facebook page states, “While date rape drugs are often used to facilitate sexual assault, very little science exists for their detection.” Even with those monetary awards, Undercover Color is still in the process of doing more experimentation and research so they can perfect their product. Their goal is to find enough funding that they can get their nail polishes into stores across the country.
Dominican University Senior, Cecilia Jordan, thinks the new nail polish “is a great invention.” She supports the product tremendously, and thinks it could benefit women more than harm them. She stated, “Women wear nail polish all the time and it is a discreet way to make sure you are being safe. One of my best friends was drugged and the only time she got up from our table was to go to the bathroom- someone drugged her drink while she was walking to the bathroom. Luckily she was with us and we immediately took her to the hospital. It's sad this is the culture we live in but it's a reality.”
But not everyone is happy about this new product. Former Marin country resident and recent college graduate, Vanessa Tafur, 23, thinks, “it’s a great idea, and I would probably buy the nail polish, but at the same time- should it be up to me? I feel a little torn on the issue. I really like the fact that these guys brought more attention to date rape, but if they started selling this at stores, would all college women be expected to buy it because we’re at such a high risk of experiencing date rape? If we didn’t buy, and something happened to us, would people want to put it on us since we didn’t buy the product?”
According to Victimisofcrime.org, victims of sexual assault can often experience self-blame and guilt after an attack. They wonder whether or not they could have done something to prevent it. In creating a product that is designed to promote prevention, some argue it could have a negative effect on women instead of a positive one.
Despite the controversy, Undercover Color is at least bringing what was once a “hush-hush” issue to the forefront of college campus discussions.