‘Anti-rape’ colour changing nailpolish: why it won’t work

The latest ‘anti-rape’ invention is doing the rounds and generating a bit of controversy. Here’s my take, and I’m hoping you’ll listen to me on this one given that I’ve cared for a number of women in my professional life who have ingested some kind of drug they didn’t consent to, or found themselves far more intoxicated than they intended or expected.

In my experience working in a frontline alcohol and drug service, drink spiking happens. People who spike drinks do so with a ridiculously wide range of drugs, with the most common being alcohol.

Buying a girl double shots when she’s not expecting it is cheap, easy, and virtually undetectable.

“I think my drink was spiked!”
“Our tests only show that you have a lot of alcohol in your system.”
“But I only had a couple. Honestly, I didn’t drink that much.”
“Sure you did.”

Plenty of popular drinks don’t taste particularly alcoholic, even with extra shots, and especially if it’s your second or third drink for the night.

Products like colour changing nail polish, dips sticks, or glassware invariably detect one or two drugs, usually drugs popularly supposed to be common date rape drugs like Rohypnol or GHB. In my experience (anecdotal as it is), these aren’t particularly commonly used. Unintentional GHB ingestion is more likely to be accidental than the result of deliberate nonconsensual administration*, and Rohypnol is not really that easy to obtain**.

So a woman dips her fingernail in her drink, nothing changes colour, and she feels safe – though her risk profile has barely changed.

The motivation behind these kinds of things – wanting to keep women safe – is good, okay? It’s good that people think this is important enough to do something about. But in my opinion these kinds of strategies are not well thought out and are potentially dangerous.

The ideological problems with these kinds of inventions – that is, that it’s not a woman’s job to prevent her own rape – are relevant discussions to have too. But my take is far more practical: this stuff doesn’t help.

If you’re going to protect yourself while you’re out drinking, all the normal rules apply: stay with friends, consider how much you’re drinking, take responsibility for purchasing and holding your own drinks, keep your phone and purse on you at all times, have back up plans and house keys and taxi money stashed in your purse and so on.

These strategies are not about preventing rape, it’s about acknowledging that pretty much every risk increases the more you drink because your decision making skills are undeniably impaired.

*GHB is colourless and flavourless, but it’s also difficult to dose – so people who use GHB often dilute it in water or other drinks. It’s easy to forget which drink is which, particularly if you are already under the influence of alcohol or other drugs – and GHB users tend to be polydrug users.

**At least here in Australia, where Rohypnol is prescription only and tightly regulated. It also generally has a dye added to make it visible when dissolved.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *