The Fashionable Way to Defend Yourself

By Jenny Bront
SC Staff Writer

Sexual assault is not a myth. Four students from North Carolina State University have begun to combat this issue with science.

Undergrad materials science and engineering classmates Ankesh Madan, Stephen Grey, Tasso Von Windheim, and Tyler Confrey-Maloney have come up with a way to combine fashion and safety with “Undercover Colors,” the first nail polish with the ability to detect common date rape drugs such as Rohypnol, Xanax, and Gamma-Hydroxybutyric (GHB) in drinks.

The idea resulted from their $11,250 victory in a university initiative that encouraged students to apply their knowledge to find solutions to society’s problems. The students decided on this idea in response to incidents they experienced.

Ankesh Madan said, “All of us have been close to someone who has been through the terrible experience, and we began to focus on finding a way to help prevent the crime.”

While using the product, a woman only has to dip her finger into her drink. Similar product have been introduced—such as coasters, cups, and straws—but have proven to have faults such as taking too long to work, detecting only several types of roofies, giving false positives, and being too obvious.

Not everyone agrees this product will be a good idea. Another side to the argument is that such a product can perpetuate the belief that women are safe from rape with this product.

However, many instances of sexual assault do not even include the use of drugs.

“Date rape drugs are not used to facilitate sexual assault all that often. While exact estimates vary, it’s safe to say that plain old alcohol is the substance most commonly used in drug-facilitated rape,” say the authors of the blog “Feministing.”

Others believe such a product will “end up fueling victim blaming,” as Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress states. “Any college students who doesn’t use the special polish could open themselves up to criticism for failing to do everything in their power to prevent rape.”

Another view on the subject states that the time and money spent on making this product would “be better allocated trying to teach people not to rape,” says Salon writer Jenny Kutner.

In response to these arguments, the people behind “Undercover Colors said, “Through this nail polish and similar technologies, we hope to make potential perpetrators afraid to spike a woman’s drink because there’s now a risk that they will get caught.”

To make donations to this cause and follow its progress, visit Currently, the students have received $100,000 in donations.

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