In 2010, four sexual assaults were reported to Butler University Police Department. A student group from the Real Business Experience branch of the College of Business formed a project to help prevent some of the assaults.
Junior Devin Goodnight and sophomore Brock Brothers used Drink Detective, a ShotSpot product, to test for more than 60 different drugs in beverages as part of the project this semester.
“If I was just a little bit in doubt of what was in my drink, I would have Drink Detective on me,” Brothers said. “I hate to compare it–but it’s like a condom. It’d be good to have on you just so you know you’re going to be safe.”
In terms of alcohol consumption, Sarah Barnes Diaz, health education and outreach programs coordinator, said she suggests if a student is going to drink anything, the student makes sure he or she sees the drink being opened or poured and keeps an eye on it.
“I want to be very clear, though, about the fact that alcohol is actually the greatest contributor to an increased risk for sexual assault,” Diaz said, adding that most sexual assault cases the university sees are alcohol-related.
Goodnight said he is impressed with Butler, the prevention strategies offered on campus and everything else the university has done for students.
“It’s obvious the university recognizes this as a problem on campus,” he said. “We were really trying to get Red Cup Culture on board with us because they could distribute a large amount to students.”
Despite Goodnight’s efforts, the university turned down initiatives to market the product on Butler’s campus.
The decision to not market Drink Detective resulted in numerous posts on social media sites, most of which questioned the university’s efforts to prevent sexual assault.
“It was never a concern about talking about rape on campus,” Diaz said. “That was part of what was concerning to me about some of the posts on Facebook—comments about how Red Cup Culture and Butler weren’t supportive ofrape-prevention practices. We want to make sure it’s known that that is absolutely not the case.”
In an October email sent to Brothers, Irene Stevens, dean of student life, wrote publicity intended to promote Drink Detective didn’t meet campus guidelines. She cited multiple reasons, including the lack of support from local victim advocacy organization Center of Hope and local forensic toxicology labs.
“What we want students to do is start paying attention to who’s mixing your drink, not putting it down anywhere, not giving anyone the opportunity to try and drug you,” Stevens said. “Do we want to put all of our eggs in the basket of a testthat may or may not be accurate? No. We don’t think that’s a good skill for students to learn. We all need to learn the skills of being responsible for ourselves and each other and making adult choices.”
Stevens said the university worries the product will be seen as a safety tool to be depended upon and not as an extra precaution.
“It really could give you a false sense of security,” Diaz said.
She said the concerns were not attempts to avoid talking about rape on campus or act like it doesn’t happen.
“To promote this during Red Cup Culture doesn’t really make sense,” Diaz said. “There is no sales pitch in that program other than staying safe on campus.”
Vice President of Student Affairs Levester Johnson said the biggest concern on college campuses is alcohol consumption in general.
“Abuse, overuse—it’s those types of behaviors that lead to other things,” Johnson said. “Poor decision-making, going too far as it relates to sexual interaction—the reason continues to be alcohol.”
Johnson said Butler has multiple outreach programs intended to educate students on a variety of topics, including sexual assault and alcoholism.
“It’s important for people to know that we are supportive of the great ideas and initiatives that students come up with on a daily basis, but that doesn’t mean we’re always going to agree,” Johnson said, adding that Butler partners with students on a multitude of projects.
“Our approach to addressing sexual assault, alcohol abuse and issues of that sort is multi-pronged,” he said. “You’ve got to address it from not just one avenue and one direction but multiple directions.”
“Therefore, the education that’s taking place through PAWS and GEAR and so forth are paramount and extremely important.”
As for their business project, Goodnight, Brothers and their partners are now running the business on Facebook instead of trying to promote it through the school.
Goodnight said the idea was attractive to them because it’s attacking social issues and not just selling a product.
Diaz said sexual assault prevention does not solely lie with the potential victim.
“We all play a role in preventing sexual assault,” Diaz said. “There are things that we can do in our day-to-day life–not just Thursday, Friday, Saturday night at a party or at the bar–to change the course of conversations, to change perceptions, to address myths that exist about what is okay and what’s not okay. There’s something we can all do to prevent sexual assault.”