Three Teen Girls Created A Straw That Detects Date Rape Drugs

"We just want to give any gender a simple tool to protect themselves."

In the United States, every 98 seconds another American woman, man, or child is sexually assaulted, according to RAINN. Sometimes, no alcohol or drugs are involved at all. Sometimes, victims drink alcohol or take drugs intentionally and a rapist takes advantage of their incapacitation. And other times, the victim is drugged without their knowledge

Date rape drugs often have no smell or taste so that people can't tell if they're being drugged. These powerful drugs can make people feel weak and confused and lose consciousness, all of which make it easier for an assailant to sexually assault his or her victim. Because these drugs are often slipped into drinks, three high school girls came up with a simple invention to help prevent drug-facilitated sexual assault: straws. 

Susana Cappello, Carolina Baigorri, and Victoria Roca have developed Smart Straws which change color when they detect one of the three most commonly used date rape substances — Rohypnol, GHB, and Ketamine.



Courtesy of Susana Cappello 
Courtesy of Susana Cappello 

The girls were inspired to create the straws after learning the alarming statistic that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men report being sexually assaulted while in college

"In addition, my older sister is at university where there were reports of date rape drugs being used," Cappello told A Plus. "So, my friends and I knew we needed to come up with a simple solution to test for drugs. I remember my dad always says 'the best ideas are the ideas that help people,' so we just thought of a simple, easy, inexpensive solution — Smart Straws." 

All three teens attend Gulliver Prep High School in Miami and had applied to be a part of its business competition. When they weren't selected, they found another way to get their idea out there. They submitted their project directly to the Miami Herald Business Plan Competition, an annual contest that celebrates startups and entrepreneurship. 

"Out of more than 300 entrants, we won," Cappello said. "No team from our school had ever won before, making us feeling proud of our accomplishment."

Cappello learned a lot from that experience. While people at her school didn't believe in the idea at first, she's glad that she and her friends didn't give up. "Don't stop believing. Don't think any problem is too large. And don't let anyone tell you can't," she said.  

Courtesy of Susana Cappello 
Courtesy of Susana Cappello 

Now that they've proved their idea is a good one, Cappello, Baigorri, and Roca are working to bring the product to market. They're planning to launch a crowdfunding campaign to raise pre-sales and are hoping to finalize their manufacturing contract soon. They don't have a website just yet, but one is in the works. 

"We might have to change the name to Safety Straw since McDonald's came out with a 'smart straw' last month that is good for drinking shakes. We don't want people getting confused," Cappello said. 

Whatever the name ends up being, these teens hope their product will help to prevent sexual assault and make a difference for both men and women. 

"Rapes assisted by drugs or alcohol are all too common. We just want to give any gender a simple tool to protect themselves," Cappello said. "We would also like to lower the rapes that occur in general with the involvement of alcoholic or nonalcoholic drinks." 

To learn more about how you can take an active role in preventing sexual assault, visit RAINN.org

If you or a loved one are a victim of sexual assault, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE or 800-656-4673. 

Cover image courtesy of Susanna Cappello.

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