It’s a phrase that appears repeatedly in the headlines of any newspaper in the world.
Serial killers, sex maniacs, abusive bosses, Latin machos, husbands with complexes, resentful sons, and frustrated fathers and guardians…Violence against us can come from any corner and end up trumpeted in huge red or black letters on the front pages of newspapers, or simply buried in the obituary section.
In my country, although there are people – highly professional to be sure – who study gender violence, the theme is barely mentioned in the media, unless it’s to speak of violence suffered by Mexican, North American or Chilean women. Otherwise, there’s no room for it.
The other possibility is to wait for a specific event where you can hear academic papers or lectures on the topic, but the great majority of Cuban woman are barely aware that such events exist.
If we’re going to speak about women, it’s better to talk of their progress since the Revolution, or of what percent they represent within any official statistic; or of breast cancer, or their possibilities of integrating into the Voluntary Military Service.
I’ve never read in a newspaper about how Beatrice lost her vision in one eye due to the beatings of her husband; or that Rebecca had to leave her job for the third time because her boss wouldn’t leave her alone; or that Zulema has a long prison sentence to serve after killing her husband, perhaps in self-defense; or that Clarita has been living on the street for months since her family threw her out of the house for being a lesbian.
Very few of us know it, but a few community centers do exist, similar to those of Alcoholics Anonymous, where women can learn to get away from violent relationships.
Each municipality has a House for Attention to Women and Families, centers created by the Federation of Cuban Women, where different courses are offered so that women who need them can learn to be independent. They also have a mental health clinic where a psychologist can see those who have problems.
These classes aren’t free, however, and the existence of the clinics isn’t well known. But the problem really centers on a more delicate matter.
If the official media doesn’t reflect the magnitude of the problem, how can little Julio who’s now 15 and for his whole life has watched his father yell and mistreat his mother, think of doing anything different? Who is there to tell him that this isn’t right? Who will explain to him that the law protects women?
There are many young people like Julio who have grown up without ever thinking about this problem, who believe, as is taught in the schools, that women in Cuba have won their full rights and are never mistreated.
So they, too, scream at their mothers, hit their wives, or simply make their girlfriends’ lives impossible, to state the most common practice, when they don’t give them sexual satisfaction.
It’s a complex and difficult topic, and it’s not enough to dissect it with tweezers once a year on a television program or to debate it in closed circles. The topic should be aired for the masses, for the women workers who spend the day laboring and later, despite this being the 21st century, are expected to serve dinner and attend to the children all by themselves.
Cuba’s mass media – the television, and the written and online press should reflect reality as we live it, so that later we can all try together to change it.