A Boston-based company is working to develop a line of cups and straws that will be able to detect so-called “date rape” drugs — odorless, colorless, tasteless substances that are nearly impossible to detect before they impair a victim’s consciousness. DrinkSavvy.Inc hopes to be able to release its cup and straw, which change color to indicate the presence of date rape drugs, at the beginning of next year.
The founder of the project, Mike Abramson, explains that he has personal experience with this type of drugging, often referred to as being “roofied.” He was once roofied while he was out drinking with his friends, and three of his close friends have also had drugs slipped into their drinks sometime over the past three years. “DrinkSavvy’s ultimate goal is to use the success of this campaign to convince bars, clubs and colleges to make DrinkSavvy the new safety standard and eventually make drug-facilitated sexual assault a crime of the past,” Abramson said in a promotional video to promote his new cup product.
Abramson’s product is in contrast to some deeply-ingrained societal attitudes about sexual assault — most notably, the idea that it’s women’s responsibility to avoid “dangerous situations” like going out to bars and drinking too much alcohol — that foster a victim-blaming rape culture. When victims come forward about being raped, whether or not they were drinking alcohol at the time of their assault often comes under scrutiny. Sexual assault prevention programs often suggest that women should just be more careful by going out in groups, making sure they don’t leave their drink unattended, and refusing to accept drinks from strangers.
Refreshingly, a cup that detects date rape drugs removes this dynamic. DrinkSavvy validates the fact that women may like to drink alcohol, and that’s okay, and they don’t have to stay sober in order to stay safe. Rather than expecting women to bear the burden of assuming their decisions will provoke a sexual crime against them, DrinkSavvy simply gives them the power to avoid ingesting sedatives without their consent — no matter who gave them the drink and how long they may have taken their eyes off of it.
DrinkSavvy’s products are also an important reminder that — unlike some other recent attempts to prevent sexual assault with innovative products, like when Indian engineers suggested that women should wear “anti-rape lingerie” — it’s possible to develop tactics to address sexual assault that don’t automatically place the onus on the victim. For every sexual assault program that is feeding into rape culture, there are others that are working to dismantle it.
For example, amid the current sexual assault crisis in the U.S. military, one naval base has implemented a program that makes rape prevention the responsibility of the potential aggressors rather than their potential victims. Sailors are encouraged to limit their alcohol consumption if they often become violent when drunk, call out their peers’ aggression toward women, and dial up a hotline number if they see someone making unsolicited advances. Sexual crimes on the base have dropped by 60 percent after just two years.