New club looks to raise awareness about abuse

Caroline Goldstein

Sexual abuse of women and young girls is a problem that occurs frequently throughout the world. GCNova, a new club whose first meeting took place this past Tuesday night, is looking to change that.

The club, which is associated with the nonprofit organization Girl Child Network, hopes to raise awareness and promote understanding about sexual abuse and encourage student action as a whole, according to junior communication major Jessica Lu, founder and president of GCNova.

“The reason we’re starting this at Villanova is because we’re afraid in the college atmosphere that sexual assault as an issue that is underestimated in how dangerous, common and pervasive it is,” Lu said.

Betty Makoni, a Zimbabwean woman who was sexually assaulted as a child, decided to combat this problem by forming Girl Child Network Zimbabwe in 1998. She saw a growing trend in Zimbabwe in which women and young girls were suffering similar abuse.

One form of abuse that Lu noted at the meeting was the “virgin myth,” the belief that men can be cured of HIV/AIDS by raping a virgin.

Girl Child Network Zimbabwe continues to provide support, medical treatment and education to the victims along with Girl Child Network Worldwide, which Makoni and Priscilla Nyathi founded in earlier this year. GCN Worldwide is based in the United Kingdom.

“This is the first time GCNW has been introduced in the United States, particularly on the collegiate level,” Lu said.

Lu first discovered Girl Child Network after reading about the organization in an online article in the CNN series “CNN Heroes.” The article highlighted Makoni’s efforts through Girl Child Network.

“I just had to do something about it,” Lu said.

The new members agreed.

“I wanted to get involved with something that would help the community,” said Tyler Mulford, a sophomore. “I thought this would be something interesting.”

Membership in GCNova requires that each member submit a donation that will go to the main chapter of Girl Child Network. In addition, Lu is planning several events, such as bake sales, raffles and can collections, through which GCNova members can participate to help further their cause.

The fundraisers will likely occur once each semester, with the first being during Nov. 25 through Dec. 10, which is 16 Days for Women’s Rights. The spring semester fundraiser is planned to occur sometime in the month of April, which is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

GCNova also plans on hosting discussion groups, presentations and documentary viewings about the topic.

Lu stresses collaboration with other on campus organizations. She plans on working with Alpha Chi Omega and Amnesty International groups on campus.

With 15 people attending the first meeting, both Lu and Maren Miller, vice-president and a junior economics major were pleased.

Lu noted that she had significant help from faculty members throughout the process of forming and managing this club.

The faculty involved include Terry Nance from the Center for Multicultural Affairs; Stacey Wieland, the club’s original academic adviser, from the communication department; and Carol Anthony, associate director of the Center for Peace and Justice and the club’s current adviser.

While a major goal of GCNova is to help raise money for the Girl Child Network, their primary goal is to raise awareness.

“We obviously want to raise money, but we want to educate people,” Lu said.

Anyone can join GCNova at any point throughout the year. “We are open to anyone helping out,” Lu said.