Is Nail Polish the Answer?

Google Images -’ve been tagged in a lot of Facebook posts recently about the nail-polish that changes colors when exposed to a handful of popular drugs used to facilitate rape. I want to thank everyone who has thought of Only With Consent and me when they have come across sexual violence prevention tips on the internet. I just don’t think preventing rape is that simple.

I think new tools that bring rape into the spotlight can be helpful when there is a greater conversation about rape, in addition to whatever new tool comes out. Of course, having tools can be useful, but ultimately they will not prevent most rapes from happening.

A good friend of mine named Julia put it in simple terms, “it's not rape prevention, it's "my" rape prevention-- at best.” It’s a don’t rape me; rape her approach at stopping sexual violence.

This nail polish adds to the laundry list of steps women are supposed to take to prevent being raped. This approach kind of reminds me of the drinkware that changes colors when Rohypnol or GHB are dropped into the cup, or the chastity-belt-like underwear that women are supposed to wear so even if someone attacks her, he wouldn’t be able to pull down her underwear. 

If the victim isn’t wearing the nail polish or she didn’t swirl her finger in her drink right before she took each sip of her drink, what are we telling her? That she wouldn’t have been raped if she had purchased the nail polish? Or that it was her fault because she only swirled her finger in her drink right before she took the first sip? And even IF she does everything “right” someone else who hasn’t purchased the nail polish will get raped and then what? Are we okay with that?

The majority of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows before the rape occurs. In a 2007 study conducted by the National Institute of Justice only about 2.4% of undergrads who were sexually assaulted reported that they suspected they were slipped a drug. If a woman feels comfortable with her friends and feels like she is in a safe space, like a friend’s apartment, she probably wouldn’t consider the nail polish trick to begin with.

Not to mention that the most commonly used drug to facilitate rape isn’t Rohypnol or GHB, it’s alcohol. Plain old alcohol--any flavor, any type.

Perhaps the drug-facilitated part of the rape would be prevented, but the predator is slipping drugs into someone's drink. He has pre-meditated this heinous crime and probably won't just stop. Maybe he doesn't continue with person A and moves on to person B or maybe he simply doesn't care and rapes the person anyway.

Another piece I don't understand is if this happened to me I would probably just want to get the hell out of there. Speaking realistically about parties, would I tap on everyone's shoulder and explain that my drink was roofied and we all needed to leave? Would I cut the music and start  yelling about my drink being roofied? Honestly, I'm not sure. Having participated in plenty of fraternity parties, college socials, apartment parties, and even as a bar go-er, my guess is that people would assume I was drunk and I was crazy. I would probably get kicked out of the party and people would either defend their house or their friends because nobody there would ever do something like that. 

Do I think it will prevent rape from happening? No. Do I hope it helps someone? ABSOLUTELY. If nothing else, maybe it helps someone simply identify if their drink was roofied, but I think that is all the power this nail polish has. 

I think tools like this are well meaning. I just don’t think they are the answer to rape prevention. While it is comforting to think that a nail polish is the answer we have all been waiting for, I would venture to say it is a false sense of security. However, if wearing this nail polish makes a woman feel more in control, then by all means, she should make the purchase.

This nail polish is a band-aid fix to the drug-facilitated piece of sexual assault. To truly prevent rape, not just “my” rape, we must change our culture. We must participate in conversations about healthy sexuality, respect, and consent, and we must advocate for healthy relationships, even if the relationships only last for one night.

Edit: August 26, 2014 8:30 pm

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