Drug detecting nail polish sparks conversations on the culture of sexual assaults and victim protection

2nd Feb 2015

Video: http://www.9wsyr.com/mediacenter/local.aspx?videoid=5589854

Syracuse (WSYR-TV) – What if something as simple as nail polish, could protect you from rape or assault?

That's the idea behind Undercover Colors, which was created by four North Carolina college students last year.

The polish changes color if it comes in direct contact of common date rape drugs such as Rohypnol, Xanax or GHB, according to the group’s Facebook page.

It sounds like an easy way for victims to protect themselves, but some worry it sends the wrong message.

Loren Cunningham, the education and prevention director at Vera House, believes the polish protection only covers the surface.

“A tool like that like this nail polish really doesn't focus on the heart of the issue,” Cunningham says.

“Asking women to wear nail polish and dip their fingers in their drink isn't rape prevention. That may in very rare circumstances enable someone to personally avoid an instance of sexual assault, but we know that drug facilitated sexual assault is far less common than sexual assault that involves just alcohol,” she comments.

Tackling the issue of alcohol is a continued focus for colleges and universities.

Dartmouth College joins a growing list of schools that bans hard liquor on campus.

Leaders hope getting rid of the hard stuff will lessen high-risk behavior and help prevent sexual assault.

A little closer to home, Le Moyne College has its own programs to prevent assaults and make sure all students are prepared.

"The first week that the students are here, they're attending a program called Relationships 101,” says Ann Bersani, the Title IX Coordinator at the college. ”It's about standing up and stepping in if they know something is going on and it could potentially take a bad turn."

The school also has a program called Bystander Intervention which helps students learn ways to stop or prevent assault.

When it does happen, Bersani is the person that works with both the victim and the accused to educate them on which resources are available.

She commends the North Carolina students for their nail polish invention, but says education for both men and women is critical.

“The nail polish is incredible but ultimately, we need to stop rape from happening,” Bersani says.

It isn't clear how soon the protective polishes could hit the market, but advocates say it can only be a start.

"If we want to we really want to address sexual assault, we can't solely be talking to women about protecting themselves,” says Cunningham. “That really avoids the heart of the problem."

The Vera House has a 24-hour crisis and support line that can be reached at (315) 468-3260.

Other resources are available below:

CDC – Understanding Sexual Violence

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network Hotline
(800) 656-HOPE, www.rainn.org

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Violence Against Women Network (VAWnet)

Prevention Connection

Not Alone