Tampa college student's invention could save women from sexual assault
TAMPA, Fla. - A University of Tampa freshman invented a scrunchie that puts a cap on bad intentions, and she’s getting national exposure for her product.
"I came up with Nightcap because I had a friend who was roofied. At the time, I was 16 and I was a junior in high school," said Shirah Benarde, who is studying entrepreneurship at UT.
The 18-year-old student turned her prototype invention into a business over the last two years, one she hopes will protect others and prevent drink spiking.
"Every day I get DMs on Instagram saying, ‘Thank you so much for what you’re doing. This happened to me.’ a bunch of stories that are just really unfortunate to hear it. But it happens all the time," she said.
Benarde hopes Nightcap will bring more awareness to the problem. Drugged drinks can lead to sexual assault, and the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay said in the last 13 months, about 20 percent of rape victims the center helped were likely drugged.
"Right now, we know certainly in COVID-19 that folks aren’t gathering many necessarily close together in bars and restaurants and things like that. But that may also give us a false sense of security," said Clara Reynolds, the CEO of Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. "So maybe we do turn our back and you’re not thinking that anyone is next to you, and you don’t realize that somebody might be coming up to your drink."
The need to protect your drink landed Shirah and her brother on Shark Tank, and they will show off Nightcap on a national stage for entrepreneurs on Friday.
"I think it will open doors, and I’m excited to see what those will be," she said.
Shirah says the idea came to her in a dream, and now it’s a reality. She has one hope for the major exposure.
"I really want to see this in everyone’s hands. I want to see it in bars, in clubs, in restaurants. I want to see it on every college campus," Bernarde continued.
Benarde said she got her business off the ground with the help of her brother who pitched her product at competitions and won $15,000 that helped kick start Nightcap.