On Wednesday night in Washington D.C., Women in the World and Toyota honored Danya Sherman as a 2018 Mother of Invention. Sherman is the founder and CEO of KnoNap, a product she invented in 2017 as a solution to root out the prevalence of drug-facilitated sexual assault.
KnoNap is a cleverly-designed detection device disguised as a napkin that can alert people when specific rape drugs have been surreptitiously used to spike an unsuspecting person’s drink, thereby empowering people to feel safer in social settings.
Sherman is a junior at George Washington University. She was interviewed onstage by CBS News Correspondent Julianna Goldman at Women in the World’s annual Washington, D.C., Salon. In the middle of the interview, Sherman got a pleasant surprise when Toyota director of international public policy Leila Afas arrived onstage and announced that Toyota is giving Sherman a $50,000 grant to help fund her company’s next growth stage.
“We’re honored to award you our Driving Solutions Grant of $50,000,” Afas told a delighted Sherman. The two shared a big hug and Sherman said, “Oh my God, you’re going to make me cry.”
“We honor you, we congratulate you, we support you,” Afas continued,
Sherman’s idea for KnoNap was inspired by an incident that took place in 2016 while she was studying abroad in Spain. She was out for an evening with someone she considered a friend who drugged her drink and then, as she puts it, “took advantage of the situation.” After returning home to the U.S., Sherman told friends about her experience and was surprised to learn that several other people she knows had suffered through similar circumstances.
Sherman resolved to develop a solution that could alert women in social settings when their drinks have been compromised. KnoNap looks like a regular old cocktail napkin, but, it is very far from being regular. The mundane aesthetic is intentional and masks technology that is able to test for the presence of 26 types of chemicals that are commonly used as date rape drugs. All someone has to do to test their beverage is discreetly drip a drop of it onto one of the corners of the KnoNap. If there’s a drug in the drink that shouldn’t be there, the moistened part of the napkin will change colors. “It’s the napkin that knows,” Sherman says. She envisions KnoNap being distributed like condoms and accessible in bars, restaurants and anywhere people go to socialize.
“Now is the time to have the conversation about drug-facilitated assault because it is never the survivor’s fault,” Sherman says. “Whenever I hear stories about women and men who have been effected, I immediately get a pit in my stomach of hopelessness. And that is why I continue relentlessly pursuing KnoNap because that is my way of relieving that pit and saying ‘No, I can do something.'”
Watch the complete interview with Sherman above and for more on KnoNap, and to see it in action, watch the video below.
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