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New Approaches to Stopping Rape: Nail Polish vs. “ATMs” to Report Assaults

New Approaches to Stopping Rape: Nail Polish vs. “ATMs” to Report Assaults

Another school year is beginning, and that means another round of discussions over how to prevent sexual assault on campus. Sadly, rather than more emphasis on discussing real consent and ensuring that a partner does in fact want to have sex with you, we’ve once again returned to telling the women on campus all the lifestyle changes they should make in order to protect themselves from rape.

One Stanford student compared sexual assault prevention to remembering to put a bike lock on to ensure your ride isn’t stolen. “Do I deserve to have my bike stolen if I leave it unlocked on the quad?” Chris Herries told Bloomberg News. “We have to encourage people not to take on undue risk” that might make them targets of the criminal conduct of others, he said, although he followed that up with the idea that “no one should blame victims for being assaulted.”

“Ladies, just remember to use your U-lock to secure your vagina to the vagina rack in the quad and we won’t have to give men any more unfair responsibility,” responded Jessica Roy at NY Mag.

That sort of backward “victim protect thyself” approach isn’t entirely unexpected from a 22-year-old college student. What is somewhat shocking is how much of it seems to be simple parroting of their own college administrators. “Without making the victims responsible for what happens, one of the groups that have to be trained not to drink in excess are women. They need to be in a position to punch the guys in the nose if they misbehave,” said Dr. Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, the former president of The George Washington University. “And so part of the problem is you have men who take advantage of women who drink too much and there are women who drink too much. And we need to educate our daughters and our children in that regard.”

The idea that women need to protect themselves while drinking has spread into its own marketing campaign, too. Four male University of North Carolina students have created a new nail polish that they claim will allow women to dip their fingers into their drinks in order to see if they have any date rape drugs hidden inside.

“While date rape drugs are often used to facilitate sexual assault, very little science exists for their detection,” says the Undercover Colors Facebook page, according to Care2. “Our goal is to invent technologies that empower women to protect themselves from this heinous and quietly pervasive crime.”

Is it “empowering” to feel like you need to test your drink before you take a sip? Is it empowering to be sure that you stay always hyper alert and ready to protect yourself from potential assault? Why is all of our focus on “empowering women to protect themselves” rather than make it completely clear that sexual assault absolutely in all situations will not be tolerated, and back that up with the fullest force of the law?

This “rape culture” mentality — that assault is something potential victims need to protect themselves from rather focusing on prevention with the potential assailants — leads to more survivors being intimidated out of reporting crime, which once more cycles into more assault. India has an even more drastic problem in actual violence against women who dare to report their assault to the police.

A new group is introducing a new kiosk that looks like an average ATM but in fact is actually a place where a victim of an assault can report her attacker without going to the police station, which has resulted in multiple deaths in the past.

“[The] iClik system is designed to be accessible for all Indians, whether or not they’re literate,” reports Think Progress. “Users can enter their complaints by recording them, typing them, or scanning a piece of paper. The machine sends the files to the closet police station, and each woman receives a receipt with information about how to track the status of her complaint. So far, it seems to be working. The Toronto Star reports that about eight to ten women use the machine every day.”

More reporting of crime could be a significant deterrent to ongoing attacks, and is a far more useful way to address assault than telling women to paint their nails to test their drinks. When it comes to really “empowering women” to protect themselves, India is at least advancing the idea that the focus should be on punishing criminals, not convincing women to change their lives in order to avoid any risk.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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7:34PM PDT on Sep 3, 2014

If a woman goes to a bar and doesn't know the person she's with very well, take precautions with your drinks. If you need to go to the ladies room take it with you or when you return to your table order a new drink, don't assume the person you're with to be trustworthy. You need to protect yourself at all cost. If he thinks you're paranoid by ordering a fresh drink, then he's not worth your time. He doesn't care about your well being. He doesn't want to spend the money for a fresh drink. Offer to pay for it yourself. A few bucks you spend for a fresh drink is better than spending the night going through hell.

5:06AM PDT on Sep 3, 2014

Really workable?

8:14PM PDT on Sep 2, 2014

It's a really sad state of affairs when women have to think this way. Says a lot for the society we live in and how we raise our sons. I have raised my son to have respect for women, and he does. Shame all parents don't do the same.

7:33PM PDT on Sep 2, 2014

If you have to test your drink, whether it be discreetly with stylish nails or overtly with a strip of paper, you should wonder about the company you're with. Drink pre-made, vacuum-sealed drinks whose provenance you know. After all, it's not like mixed drinks, beer or wine isn't available from the nearest store. Hard to spike those without breaking the seal, although I'm sure people try.

On the other hand it's true women are statistically smaller, weaker and more vulnerable as targets for scads and criminals so, why not have the tools to test? Not to mention empowering yourself with apps which will instantly dial 911 or a family member/friend you trust in case you're in trouble or don't come back from an outing when you're by yourself. I think that goes for smaller men as well as women... anyone can be a victim of crime and we should all use today's technology to be prepared.

And, I DO think it's good advice for both women and men not to drink too much. I mean, put the shoe on the other foot and imagine a slight, attractive guy hanging out with a friend who happens to be gay, and they end up at a gay bar at 2am. Would you want to end up falling-over drunk? Would you swallow a drink that someone besides the bartender had pre-mixed for you? Hell no.

4:04AM PDT on Sep 2, 2014

I am 1000% in agreement that the focus needs to be on educating men and punishing rapists. HOWEVER, I do not see why everyone is up in arms about this particular thing? I say any tool that ALSO helps women protect themselves is welcome. No woman should be assaulted because they drank too much or are wearing the "wrong clothing", and once raped, the blame is squarely on the attacker, not the victim. That said, regardless of how much we all want a world in which no-one is raped, until that time comes, women will need every possible advantage available to them.

12:03PM PDT on Sep 1, 2014

Here is an idea, why don't we focus on stopping men from raping women, rather than blaming women for being raped?

11:05AM PDT on Sep 1, 2014

Frank S
“A swift kick to the nuts works all the time, and once he's down.....well.......let justice be your guide.”

one cannot give a swift kick to the nuts if one is unconscious.

“So you see Ladies carrying a gun is not paranoia ......its just plain old smart common sense.”

one cannot shoot a gun if one is unconscious.

Karen and Ed O.
“Who do we blame when someone gets shot? The victim? Or the one with the gun?”

well, first the “victim” is accused of thuggery and then the shooter is painted as the "victim".

So why do ppl purchase guns? For protection. Why do ppl purchase insurance, in case something happens. Granted it would be nice if the male population were taught responsible behavior. And more attention were given to the crime. Unfortunately, it is not happening at this time. Realistically though, even if/when more attention were given to the crime, and responsibility is taught there will still be those who would refuse to comply.

I see this as empowering women, much like taking bc empowers women to choose when to become or not become mothers. So I say good on those who created the drug detecting nail polish.

9:33AM PDT on Sep 1, 2014


6:44AM PDT on Sep 1, 2014

Thanks for sharing.

6:35AM PDT on Sep 1, 2014

We should not be so quick to run down methods that can be used for women to protect themselves. For example we do not hesitate to remind pedestrians to look both ways. We do not suggest that they risk death by proudly asserting their right to cross a street. Sex crime has always been with us and always will be. We need to reduce its frequency by helping women to protect themselves, by educating men on women's rights, and by meaningfully punishing men who commit sex crimes. Everyone who thinks that just extending prison terms will scare the men straight is missing the point that no man knows the prison terms anyway, they vary from case to case and jurisdiction to jurisdiction, how much scarier does two more years sound if one is wiling to risk years in prison anyway, and the punitive impact of prison lessens over time as one adjusts to prison life. If things were as they were in the past -- and are in nations such as Singapore, Malaysia, and Brunei today -- where the men who commit such crimes know that they will receive a dramatic, swift, and painful punishment (in the form of a good old fashioned whipping) within days of being convicted and arriving at prison, a lot more men would find a way to control themselves.

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