I’m a feminist; I think rape culture is a serious problem that we need to tackle sensibly. I’m just going to say that first because what I’m about to say next is pretty much against anything I’ve seen most people write about the latest ‘anti-rape device’ – nail polish that quickly changes colour if your drink has been spiked.
Last year, I had my drink spiked and it’s my experience of reporting the crime that has perhaps made me have a slightly different take in this debate. I think it’s actually a very clever invention for one important reason nobody seems to have considered – proving the crime.
You might not know – and nor did I until I was unfortunate enough to experience it first hand – just how hard it is to prove with evidence that a victim has been drugged by someone. Clever drink spikers can slip you any number of chemicals in a pill or powder that dissipate into your bloodstream and become undetectable within just 20 minutes – about the time at which you start realising something’s wrong but are becoming unable to do anything about it. Without absolute proof of a chemical in your body, reporting cases of drink spiking can be hard, as I found out.
During what was perhaps the worst night I’ve ever experienced, someone slipped something into my drink. Of course I was aware of the dangers of not being constantly vigilant over drinks, I’m sure the first time I ever went out clubbing I clung to glasses as if I was superglued to them! But over time, after countless safe nights out, you become more trusting of people – not everyone in a bar is as scary as your parents warned you they would be and you gradually stop staring at your G&T as if you’re in some sort of stand-off. As students, we go out so often, it’s perhaps even easier to forget the darker side of a night out.
Having your drink spiked makes you feel powerless. All I remember of that night are vague moments; wandering away from my friend, feeling like I was in a trance, a paramedic taking a blood test and suddenly it was 3pm the following day.
Despite being constantly ill, I thought I should act fast and call the Police. I expected to be rushed into hospital for all sorts of tests to detect what was inside me, causing me to forget things and feel dizzy, but the all the Police Officers could do was take my details and ask for the name of the bar so the staff could “watch out in future”. It transpired the ambulance team had confirmed I had symptoms of drug consumption but that it was undetectable because it had reacted so fast in my body. No proof, no hard evidence, nothing that could say I had definitely been exposed to a date rape drug.
The new nail polish only changes colour if you stir your finger in a drink which contains a common date rape drugs. It tells you within just 20 seconds if your drink has been spiked, meaning you can still identify – if not still be standing next to – the criminal alongside hard evidence to present to the police straight away.
Date rape drugs are easy to get hold of if you’re an experienced drinks spiker but victims have little to no power of defending themselves. This nail polish is even easier to buy, subtle and worth far more than its price if it detects drugs in your drink.
The conviction and arrest rates of drink spikers is low because often victims cannot remember them, CCTV in dark crowded bars and clubs makes it almost impossible to catch them in the act and with no physical evidence left by the time they’re well enough to report it, they’re left as victims of a crime based on a circumstantial case.
Of course drink spiking needs to be tackled at its core, teaching people that it is never acceptable to do it and understanding that we have a huge problem in rape culture and sexism (I’m confident in suggesting the majority of victims of drink spiking are women).
Nobody should have to think twice before sipping their drink, nobody should have to feel on guard in order to make it home safe but having been spiked, I know that’s not how the world works – criminals exist, I’m hoping this nail polish will help to convict them.