An Anti-Rape Project Honors Dinah

Both victims of rape, Annie Clark and Andrea Pino are at the heart of a federal complaint that has received nationwide media attention in recent months. The two charge that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill violates Title IX — which requires colleges receiving federal aid to combat gender-based violence and harassment — by its improper handling of sexual assault and rape cases. They also initiated Know Your IX, a campaign to educate college students about their rights under federal law.

And, while neither is Jewish, each woman has co-chaired a campus project dealing with women’s safety and empowerment that has its roots in a Jewish campus group.

Project Dinah was born in 2004 when a group of first-year women, all members of the UNC Hillel, began hearing about assaults on their campus as well as at other colleges. “We felt like that was a world we didn’t want,” says Allison Rose Socol, one of the founders.

The original six young women also “felt very strongly there was a voice missing both on campus and in the Jewish community about this issue,” says Socol, 27, now a UNC graduate student.

They brought their concerns to Or Mars, who was then the Hillel director, and began working closely with Jenn Harrington, who was the Hillel Jewish Campus Service Corps.

At the time, many of the women had just read The Red Tent by Anita Diament, a novel that focuses on Dinah, a biblical figure who was raped (Gen. 34). The women decided to give voice to Dinah by naming the group for her. “We felt that would be the representative figure from the Bible,” Harrington says, to connect the group to Judaism.

Harrington won a Kolker Saxon Hallock Foundation grant from Hillel for Project Dinah. For its first effort, the project distributed 1,500 safety whistles, along with wallet cards printed with information on health and crisis centers, information on Project Dinah, and the roots of the organization’s name.

“We had great success” with the distribution, says Emily Dunn, 27, another of the founders. It gave the project “a little bit of name recognition on campus.” By the next year, Project Dinah filed as a campuswide group, no longer under the Hillel rubric. Other efforts followed, including Take Back the Night rallies and the Clothesline Project, both designed to raise awareness about sexual assaults; Speak Out UNC, a blog where people can write anonymously about their rape and assault experiences; self-defense classes; and an I Heart Orgasm sexual education program.

For some of the women involved, Project Dinah has had an impact beyond college. Many of the women are “still involved in rape crisis centers and advocacy and things of that nature,” says Dunn, noting that her work in Project Dinah “made me the feminist I am today.”

A birth doula who advocates for maternity care, she says that such a job “may not have even been on my radar had it not been for Project Dinah.”

And, while Project Dinah’s affiliation with Hillel was short, “When new members join we talk about the history of P.D. We definitely tell it every year,” says Pino, now a UNC senior.