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The Nail Polish That’s Raising Awareness About Sexual Assaults

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Could nail polish actually be used as a tool to prevent sexual assaults? That’s what one group of students at North Carolina State University is hoping with their in-development chemistry project Undercover Colors. The idea is pretty simple: you wear it like any other nail polish, swirl your finger in that cocktail that guy down the bar bought you, and if the polish changes color…trash the drink and call the cops, because you’ve possibly been roofied.

“While date rape drugs are often used to facilitate sexual assault, very little science exists for their detection. Our goal is to invent technologies that empower women to protect themselves from this heinous and quietly pervasive crime,” reads a statement from the company.

A beauty product for that also serves as a personal safety function sounds like a pretty cool idea to us, so we were left scratching our heads with the wave of controversy that made rounds in the media last week. A number of outlets shunned the idea saying that such products put the responsibility on the victim to avoid rape and take the focus off the criminals themselves. Others said this type of detection wouldn’t work—at least not reliably—because there are so many date-rape drugs out there beyond GHB (including anti-anxiety meds and sleeping pills) that it’d be impossible to test for all of them.

We wholeheartedly agree that we should, as a culture, continue to educate the masses and raise awareness that rape is never okay—and that it is never on the victim to avoid assault. But we still see this as a step in the right direction, and another precaution women can take (along with walking each other home at night and carrying mace) to protect themselves. Call it a necessary evil, even. Like a can of mace stowed in your handbag, wearing a drug-detecting nail polish would never thwart all potential attackers, all the time. Yet while the world figures itself out, what harm is there in a nail polish that could help stop an attack before it starts?

“We hope this future product will be able to shift the fear from the victims to the perpetrators, creating a risk that they might actually start to get caught,” wrote co-founder Tyler Confrey-Maloney on Undercover Colors’ Facebook page. The team is still undergoing testing, and early in the R&D stage, according to Confrey-Maloney. Maybe there’s hope that the team can continue to advance the formula, but that may even be beside the point. In any case, what they’re doing has started a wider discussion about sexual assault. And it’s that exposure, of all the news within these last couple of weeks, that’s most important.

There are plenty of supporters, too, including investors who have tallied around $100,000 in seed money even before news of Undercover Colors went public. They’re still raising funds to meet their financial goal, so that they can devote even more funds to research and development. If you’re interested in donating, click here.