This Cup Can Detect ‘Date Rape’ Drugs

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"This Cup Can Detect ‘Date Rape’ Drugs"

date rape cups

CREDIT: DrinkSavvy.Inc

A Boston-based company is working to develop a line of cups and straws that will be able to detect so-called “date rape” drugs — odorless, colorless, tasteless substances that are nearly impossible to detect before they impair a victim’s consciousness. DrinkSavvy.Inc hopes to be able to release its cup and straw, which change color to indicate the presence of date rape drugs, at the beginning of next year.

The founder of the project, Mike Abramson, explains that he has personal experience with this type of drugging, often referred to as being “roofied.” He was once roofied while he was out drinking with his friends, and three of his close friends have also had drugs slipped into their drinks sometime over the past three years. “DrinkSavvy’s ultimate goal is to use the success of this campaign to convince bars, clubs and colleges to make DrinkSavvy the new safety standard and eventually make drug-facilitated sexual assault a crime of the past,” Abramson said in a promotional video to promote his new cup product.

Abramson’s product is in contrast to some deeply-ingrained societal attitudes about sexual assault — most notably, the idea that it’s women’s responsibility to avoid “dangerous situations” like going out to bars and drinking too much alcohol — that foster a victim-blaming rape culture. When victims come forward about being raped, whether or not they were drinking alcohol at the time of their assault often comes under scrutiny. Sexual assault prevention programs often suggest that women should just be more careful by going out in groups, making sure they don’t leave their drink unattended, and refusing to accept drinks from strangers.

DrinkSavvy validates the fact that women may like to drink alcohol, and that’s okay, and they don’t have to stay sober in order to stay safe. Rather than expecting women to bear the burden of assuming their decisions will provoke a sexual crime against them, DrinkSavvy simply gives them the power to avoid ingesting sedatives without their consent — no matter who gave them the drink and how long they may have taken their eyes off of it.

DrinkSavvy’s products are just one among several recent efforts to creatively address sexual assault. For example, amid the current sexual assault crisis in the U.S. military, one naval base has implemented a program that makes rape prevention the responsibility of the potential aggressors rather than their potential victims. Sailors are encouraged to limit their alcohol consumption if they often become violent when drunk, call out their peers’ aggression toward women, and dial up a hotline number if they see someone making unsolicited advances. Sexual crimes on the base have dropped by 60 percent after just two years.

Similarly, as increasing numbers of U.S. universities become embroiled in controversy over their lackluster sexual assault policies, some are taking steps to effectively address the issue rather than continuing to behave as if rape victims must have provoked it. Stanford University launched a campus-wide campaign to educate students about consent. Duke University stiffened its penalty for sexual crimes and agreed to expel rapists from campus, sending an important message about taking rape seriously. The University of Maryland may implement a mandatory sexual assault awareness program so that every incoming freshman receives information about consent and healthy relationships. A group of campus activists recently launched “Know Your IX,” a campaign to help students advocate for sexual assault prevention that encourages young adults to host sexual assault prevention forums, set up tabling displays with merchandise related to the issue, and bring professional trainings to campus.

Of course, when it comes to preventing rape, a cup that turns red when it detects roofie drugs isn’t the ultimate solution (and still doesn’t get us to the point where no one needs special cups because no one slips drugs into other people’s drinks). It’s hard to know exact statistics on sexual assault cases — and specifically assaults involving roofies — because those crimes are so consistently under-reported, but a 2007 study from the National Institute for Justice estimated that 2.4 percent of female undergrads who had been sexually assaulted suspected they had been slipped a drug. The majority of sexual assaults aren’t aided by sedatives.

“It’s not a cure-all,” Abramson said of his product, which he hopes colleges will add to their rape prevention programs. But it’s a small step in combating rape culture, and a tactic that sends a message about how to think about sexual assault prevention in the first place.

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