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December 17, 2012 at 12:38 PMComments: 5 Faves: 0

Can these cups and straws prevent date rape?

By Laura Hogg More Blogs by This Author

Universal rule of parties #1: don’t ever leave your drink unattended.

It sucks that we live in a world where we have to follow such advice, but the reason behind the rule is no secret. 200,000+ sexual assaults are reported each year – and it’s estimated that just 46% of such incidents ever get reported at all. To use a conservative estimate, then, nearly half a million cases of sexual assault happen each year in the United States. That’s roughly one every minute. And – bear with me here for one last uncomfortable statistic – 1 in 5 victims of sexual assault believe that they were intentionally slipped some sort of drug.

Okay, so – don’t let your drink out of your sight. Easy enough. Or is it? It’s one thing to know the rule – it’s another thing entirely to follow it when you’re drinking and socializing and the lights are low and the music is turned up high.

Enter Mike Abramson.

He’s on a personal crusade against date rape. “Within the past 3 years,” he says, “3 of my close friends, and myself, have been the unwitting victims of consuming an odorless, colorless, and tasteless drug slipped into our drink.”

Abramson is the brains behind DrinkSavvy, a new startup that aims to reduce cases of date rape by providing cups, glasses, and straws that change color when they come into contact with chemicals.

The idea of drink tests is a great one, and it isn’t new. However, the only tests currently available are in the form of detection strips with long and complicated directions: make sure you’re in a well-lit area, make sure the test is dry, place one drop on each side of the test, rub gently, wait for results...yikes. They’ve had their successes, but their directions are not exactly easy to follow when you’re at a party. And they’re definitely not conducive to constant vigilance throughout the night. 

“[The tests are] cumbersome, impractical, and socially awkward,” Abramson says. “More importantly, anyone who has been drugged will tell you that by the time you begin to feel the effects of the drug, it’s too late.” 

That’s why integrating the test right into your glass is so genius: you can completely skip the danger zone caused by waiting for test results from the strips. The final DrinkSavvy products aren’t yet finished (they’re still waiting for funding through IndieGoGo), but the prototype and mockups look promising and provide near-instant feedback:

Straws & stirrers

Glassware

Disposable party cups

Prototype

Abramson’s goal is to make his drinkware “the new safety standard” everywhere – bars, clubs, and universities – and not just at parties. It’s a lofty goal, to be sure. Some have questioned the practicality of such a plan – unless DrinkSavvy teamed up with a larger company. “Maybe if they worked out a deal with Solo plastic drinking cups,” says Jezebel’s Laura Beck in her mostly positive op-ed, “we'd be talking.”

However, Beck also points out that those who are determined to use drugs to commit rape will find a way. It’s a valid point; what happens when new, extra-discreet drugs are developed? DrinkSavvy, she says, is “a band-aid.”

To which I say, of course it is. But, to carry on her metaphor, even band-aids can help prevent infection. No one product or set of laws is going to put an end to a problem like rape; it is, unfortunately, deeply engrained in our cultural consciousness. (Want to hear something truly terrifying? Though the stats have improved since then, a 1991 study found that 51% of male college students would consider raping a woman if assured they would not get caught. Fifty-one percent.) But we’re duty bound – in honor of the hundreds of thousands of survivors – to support any initiative that can at least put a dent in it.

Sources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

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5 Comments

  • Pretty depressing that these are necessary... I guess we have 51% (!!!) of the male species to thank. I really hope Solo gets on board with this!

  • I actually had GHB slipped to me while I was a party years back, but luckily my friend was there with me and noticed that I started acting really weird. I got sick and I started hallucinating and saying all these crazy things. Like, as she was driving me home apparently I complimented her flying skills and every time I was offered water to drink, I accepted asking "Do you want sauce with that?" (I was working at Wendy's at the time so it had been drilled into my brain.) When I woke up in the morning though, I didn't remember anything at all past the point I took the drink. I had no clue how I had gotten home or anything. Though I got through it fine with just a horrible headache and crazy story, it really is a scary thing to think if my friend hadn't been there stuck to my side the whole time. It's no joke!

  • Erin, that's awful! I'm so glad your friend was there. GHB is definitely no joke. :/

  • Great blog and I loved the experiment! I guess an alternative would be to not drink or get a new glass every time you set yours down or lose it. I've seen people at weddings sit at a table and drink all of the left overs in the glasses! How crazy is that?

  • I think this is a good start.

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