A Vancouver advocacy group is raising money to bring coasters that detect date-rape drugs to the Vancouver club scene in an effort to prevent sexual assaults.

Good Night Out Vancouver has been working with Vancouver nightclubs over the past year in its mission to create environments where every patron can enjoy a night out without sexual harassment. 

Ashtyn Bevan co-founded the organization after completing an internship in the nightlife industry as part of a Simon Fraser University course.

"[Harassment] is a huge problem," she told CBC's The Early Edition. "It's important to address and acknowledge sexual harassment happens in the city."

While a club might be a space where people expect flirting and sexual activity, Bevan says there is a line.

"A lot of times, people go too far and they keep pushing towards it. No means no."

Sample drink coaster

A mock up for the drink coaster Good Night Out Vancouver is trying to crowdfund for. (Good Night Out Vancouver)

In some extreme circumstances, perpetrators have slipped sedatives and other substances into victims' drinks without their knowledge in order to make them less able to resist.

Good Night Out Vancouver's newest campaign is crowdfunding is to bring in the special coasters that can reveal whether a drink contains ketamine or GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) — two drugs commonly used to commit sexual assault.

The group hasn't seen the coasters used in Canadian clubs or know of a Canadian supplier, so it is ordering the coasters from an American supplier, Drink Safe Technologies, who created the special test strip.

The company has a minimum order requirement 500 coasters, which will come to around $625.

"It is so simple," said Bevan. "Take one or two drops and you put it on the coaster and the coaster can detect [the drug]."

Bevan's group also performs audits for interested clubs where her volunteers observe how staff interact with patrons, whether water is provided, whether it's left in the open.

"After we present the information to them, it's all private. We offer them a train-the-trainer to deal with and recognize what harassment looks like."

Drug-detecting tools controversial

While the campaign has been positively received — they have raised close to 70 per cent of the fundraising goal — these kind of drug-detecting tools have been the subject of controversy before.

Some critics say tools like coasters that detect date-rape drugs — and other's like nail polish that changes colours in the presence of drugs — put the onus on women to prevent sexual assault. 

They point out women are already expected to police themselves by wearing specific clothing, traveling in groups, and keeping a close eye on their drinks.

Good Night Out Vancouver acknowledged this criticism on its crowdfunding website, saying these devices "often make problematic assumptions about women being responsible for the prevention of sexual assault."

However, it added the coasters are just one of the many tools it can use until there is a more meaningful cultural shift to end sexual assault.

With files from The Early Edition


To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled Vancouver organization crowdfunds to get date rape testing coasters into nightclubs