Anti-sexual assault products' popularity surges
Swartz calls new products "Band-Aid", questions underlying issues
“Personally, I feel like it’s putting a pretty superficial Band-Aid on a huge problem,” Swartz said. “I don’t think that it’s a long-term solution, because the problem shouldn’t be, ‘I’m concerned about whether I have a date rape drug in me.’ The problem should be, ‘Why are date rape drugs here at all?’”
A growing number of innovative risk-management solutions are sprouting up at universities nationwide — increasingly aimed at combatting sexual assault on campuses.
Such products include Undercover Colors, a nail polish which changes color when it comes into contact with an unsafe drink, and new mobile applications such as Circle of 6, OnWatch and VizSafe. Now, anything from disorderly sexual conduct, illegal parking or traffic delays and accidents can be shared with the community in seconds.
President and CEO of VizSafe Peter Mottur said anti-sexual assault industries arose due to increased national attention to how commonplace sexual assaults are becoming in a university environment. Vizsafe is a mobile application which allows students to anonymously post a report with a photo or video that is instantly mapped and geotagged.
“The media coverage of sexual assaults on school campuses has increased over the past few years and has led Congress to implement new reporting requirements for colleges and universities,” Mottur said in an email. “This new law, called the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, was introduced to prevent schools from underreporting assaults. Through this bill, every college is required to participate by conducting a safety survey with its students and publishing the results online.”
The University has taken steps of its own to combat sexual assault and violence, including a new campaign titled “Not on Our Grounds.” The campaign complements a recent revamping of university policies on reporting sexual misconduct and preexisting public events such as Take Back the Night, a week of programming sponsored by the Sexual Assault Leadership Council which culminates in a survivor vigil.
Fourth-year College student Haley Swartz, a member of Take Back the Night, expressed ambivalence toward the growing number of anti-sexual assault products and mobile apps designed to address the issue.
“Personally, I feel like it’s putting a pretty superficial Band-Aid on a huge problem,” Swartz said. “I don’t think that it’s a long-term solution, because the problem shouldn’t be, ‘I’m concerned about whether I have a date rape drug in me.’ The problem should be, ‘Why are date rape drugs here at all?’ It’s shifting the responsibility and shifting the conversation into a place where I’m not really comfortable keeping it.”