Editor’s Note: This article contains mentions of sexual violence. Please take care while reading, and note the helpful resources at the end of the story.
Danya Sherman, 24, is leading the charge to make social drinking spaces safer with her company KnoNap, which provides single-use kits that help people detect if their drinks have been laced or spiked. With her subtle, discreet, and easy-to-use Knope kit, Sherman is on a mission to create safe drinking environments for all, while also using her brand and voice to spread awareness and educate people about the dangers of drink spiking.
“It’s estimated that 1 out of every 13 college-aged individuals suspect having had a drink laced with a drug,” Sherman tells In The Know. “And the narrative that’s been put out is very much one around women being drugged and assaulted, but the issue really could affect anyone.”
Sherman’s goal is to create “a culture of conversation and education,” where everyone is “equally empowered against the issue of drink spiking.” As the founder and CEO of KnoNap, Sherman can create essential products while simultaneously providing resources for education.
“KnoNap is a company that works to empower, educate, and advocate against drug-faciliated sexual assault and crime,” says Sherman. “We work to empower through our discreet, gender-inclusive, portable detection devices for rape drugs, that anyone can use in any social setting.” KnoNap also partners with universities, Title IX offices, and police departments, to ensure that individuals who are most at-risk for becoming victims of drink spiking, are educated and aware of resources.
For Sherman, the issue of drink spiking is a personal one. “While studying abroad, I was drugged by a newfound friend,” she says. “At the realization of the pervasiveness of the issue, I sought empowerment tools I could personally use to increase my safety in social settings. But what I found was there was nothing on the market that was discreet and inclusive and something that I would personally want to use.”
So Sherman got to work, creating her first product, KnoNap, which was a napkin that contained a colorimetric-based test in the material of the napkin, that could alert people if their drink had been spiked. Sherman first came up with the idea in 2017 while taking a college course titled “Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership.”
“I had been thinking of a concept similar to KnoNap, an empowerment tool against drink spiking, for a very long time,” Sherman tells In The Know. “Putting pen to paper in that class was really effective.”
Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Sherman realized that the setting in which people were drinking was going to drastically change, so she adapted her product to suit the changing social environment.
“Because of [COVID-19] and people’s changing drinking habits, and not necessarily being in social settings where there are going to be napkins readily available and around, we took the intellectual property from our napkins and integrated them into more consumer-focused products that we are calling Knope,” says Sherman.
Knope is a subtle, portable tool that’s designed to look like a stick of gum. To use it, simply remove it from the packaging, place 3 drops of your drink onto the tab, and wait about 5 minutes until the test results appear.
If 3 lines appear, your beverate is safe to drink. If 1 or 2 lines appear, that means drugs have been detected. If zero lines appear, that means the test is invalid. The Knope also includes a QR code on the back that, when scanned, provides information and resources, should someone find themselves in a dangerous situation.
For Sherman, subtlety and transportability were essential when designing the Knope.
“Through our feedback, we found that individuals going forward are going to be carrying less things when they’re going out. They’re going to be going to more house parties, backyard events, social settings that are more open,” says Sherman. “And so having products that can be easily carried in pockets, purses, wallets was integral.”
For Sherman, the KnoNap brand has expanded far beyond her initial expectations for the outreach potential of the company.
“When I started KnoNap it was because I had a mission to personally combat this issue. But the issue is so much larger than my experience on its own,” she says. “The fact that now we are almost 5 years out from when I had started the company, and [have] been able to engage with thousands of individuals across the world on the issue of drink spiking, and raising conversations and awareness, has been completely awe-inspiring.”
“People are engaged and joining that dialogue to say ‘Enough is enough and here’s what we’re doing to create change.’” Sherman tells In The Know. “We’re only just getting started.”
If you or someone you know needs support after experiencing sexual violence, contact the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-653-4673 or chat online with a trained counselor.
You can also connect with a Crisis Text Line counselor at no charge by texting the word “HOME” to 741741.
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