The head of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre is backing the use of a novel product that will be available in pubs soon.
The €1.50 product, Test Your Drink, is a small kit that contains six sheets of test spots that you can dip into your drink to test for date-rape drugs such as GHB and ketamine.
Anyone who consumes these drugs as a result of having their drink spiked will go into a deep, unconscious state and have disrupted memories.
The sheet will change colour if a date-rape drug is present when the drink is tested.
According to figures from the Rape Crisis Centre, around 80% of rape cases occur when women have taken an alcoholic drink.
Noeline Blackwell, chief executive of the Rape Crisis Centre, said: “If the kit can help people feel secure when out then that’s good or stop sexual assault and other crimes then that can only be good.
“People always should be aware of what they are drinking. If it doesn’t taste right then don’t drink it.
“Spiking drinks is an awful phenomenon and it’s a disgrace that such a thing is being carried out. The people who spike drinks don’t seem to care that the affected person may be on medication and the effect could be disastrous.
“A person who falls victim to this is not to blame. They are victims of callous perpetrators up to no good,” said Ms Blackwell.
The kit, created by Derry man Gary Bates, has been successfully tested by the University of Ulster.
The entrepreneur has entered his company into a competition run by Richard Branson for start-ups, called Voom, which has €1.3m funding up for grabs. The winners are due to be announced in the next couple of weeks.
Mr Bates’s extended family live in Wexford. He has had several meetings with drinks company Diageo to see if the product can be distributed in bars across Ireland and the UK to raise awareness of drinks being spiking.
“Since I started the process, I’ve had so many people come forward with a horrifying story about something similar that happened to them,” said Mr Bates.
“Our message is, ‘Don’t leave your drinks unattended’ but if you are worried that something might have happened, these sheets will give you peace of mind.
“Some of our research [carried out in Northern Ireland and the UK] shows that up to 84% of women who have been date-raped knew their attackers and women between the ages of 16-24 are four times more likely to be date-raped than any other age group.”
Mr Bates added that “42% of women who are date-raped don’t tell any one at all about it and 27% of women who were date-raped did not realise that what happened met the legal definition of date-rape”.
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