Abuse, Rape

By Irina Pino

Sexual Crimes

HAVANA TIMES – Cubavision recently broadcast “Atleta A” on La Septima puerta show. It’s a documentary about the sexual abuse perpetrated by national Gymnastics former doctor and osteopathic physician Larry Nassar in the US, who was taken to trial and given a 160-year life sentence.

Different accounts of rape and sexual abuse went unpunished because his victims didn’t report them, mostly because of a lack of evidence.

The people who suffered at his hands will hold onto this pain for their entire lives.

In the 1980s, when I was a teenager, a choreographer appeared in my neighborhood, looking for girls to join his dance troupe. According to him, they would perform in one of the shows at the Cabaret Parisien, at the Hotel Nacional in Havana.

He recruited five girls, and gave each of them a leotard, pair of shoes and legwarmers. 

He asked if any of them had a space available, where they could rehearse in complete peace and quiet.

One of them offered her living room, which was quite big. They could rehearse at noon, two or three times a week. Nobody would bother them, as her parents worked all day.

The imposter gave them a series of warm-up exercises to do that included groping between their legs, where they had to apply a special oil so that the young girls could gain the flexibility needed to do the splits and raise their legs as high as possible.

So, using this pretext, he would touch their genitals. That practice didn’t go on too long though, one of the girls told her elder sister, because she was ashamed to tell her mother.

Her sister was 25 years old and hung out with a group of young men who weren’t criminals, but they liked picking fights with other gangs.

It turns out this group confronted the choreographer and gave him a good beating, taking him out of the loop.  But there wasn’t a police report filed against him.

This next part is a personal one, it happened to me

The “El Principe” FAR military unit used to be near my home, so recruits were always hanging around my block. We used to call them Aguacates (Avocadoes because of their uniform) and Siete pesos (Seven pesos because of the measly stipend they used to get).

One afternoon, I met a really handsome one while having a snack at the cafe on 29th and F streets. We agreed to meet later that night.

The young man took me to one of the sides of the military unit and, taking advantage of us being alone and the darkness, he forced me to have sex with him. As I was wearing a dress, it was easy for him to take off my underwear and penetrate me. I could barely defend myself from his attack.

Nobody ever found out, I was ashamed and confused. I told my sister after a few days. I was only 18.

A year later, history almost repeated itself as I was with a friend at the Coppelia ice cream parlor, and two militarymen sat down next to us. They were nice and they invited us out. We accepted the invitation.

In the evening, we went to Turf, a club in Vedado, for a little bit. It’s a place where couples don’t only go to dance and listen to music.

Then, they took us for a stroll along the streets around the Hotel Nacional, which are quite deserted. I don’t know if they did it on purpose.

My military man tried to take me by force, he was really excited and wanted to have sex no matter what. I burst into tears and told him that I couldn’t because I was still a virgin. That lie saved me from his aggression.

He left me alone. The shithead even consoled me.

I also remember what happened to a neighbor too when, one night, while walking down the street and turning a corner, a guy got out of a truck that was parked, grabbed her by the arm and stuck her inside, to try and rape her.

There was a struggle for a few moments and she began to scream. Scared, he threw her out of the vehicle, started the engine and took off. The young girl didn’t even take note of his license plate, amidst tears and desperation.

My cousin really got screwed over. She became the girlfriend of a guy she really liked at a party. When he invited her to his house, they made love romantically. She was happy, everything was going well until he got up to go to the kitchen.

After a while, the head of a tall and strong man came out of the closet, who jumped on top of her and raped her from above and behind. The other guy never showed up, despite her resistance and pleas for help.

When her “boyfriend” returned from the kitchen, the two of them threatened to cut her with a knife is she tried to report them. That left her devastated, and she had to go to a psychologist because she refused to engage in sexual relations.

I sometimes think about this whole gang of abusers and rapists that are roaming our streets freely, leaving victims in their path.

There should be self-defense schools for women. To try and fight off men, who in their position of power, try to subject them and force them to have sex against their will.

Rape also happens in a lot of marriages, and women are quiet about this and just put up with it. A silence that is founded on fear, a lot of the time.

Rapists deserve to feel the entire weight of the law upon them. I’d sentence them to the electric chair if it was up to me.

Over thirty years later, I still see those acts as the most despicable acts of machismo.

I’m sorry that our innocence and lack of information when we were young didn’t help us to defend ourselves.

Read more from Irina Pino’s diary here on Havana Times.

Irina Pino

Irina Pino: I was born in the middle of shortages in those sixties that marked so many patterns in the world. Although I currently live in Miramar, I miss the city center with its cinemas and theaters, and the bohemian atmosphere of Old Havana, where I often go. Writing is the essential thing in my life, be it poetry, fiction or articles, a communion of ideas that identifies me. With my family and my friends, I get my share of happiness.