An Account of Sexual Violence at a Cuban School

Cuban high school students.  Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES – Jessica doesn’t want to disclose her real name or show her photo, she won’t say what the name of the school was or where it was, she doesn’t even want to write because “I don’t like that”.

However, one thing she knows for sure is that her story is very common among teenage girls that any of them would identify with it. She knows this because many girls went through the same thing at her pre-university course, but there were different endings.

Cuban schools are renowned for being safe, and it’s true, it’s very rare that there are acts of gang violence, attacks or kidnappings etc. However, sexual violence is like having a cup of coffee at breakfast-time.

Jessica was very naive when she went into 10th grade, she played with the boys on her block, she liked to wear lipstick and wear a tight skirt as part of her uniform, it was like a game; “that’s how I used to dress up my dolls,” she says “it’s normal for a girl to want to grow up and look like her mum or other older women.” But when “THAT” happened, she realized that being a woman (or people understanding you to be a woman when you are still just a minor) isn’t a simple matter.

I didn’t pick up on anything in my first year [at senior high school], I was very slim and childlike, I didn’t have any run-ins with guys; I didn’t have a boyfriend either.” But in 11th grade, with “a bit more curves” and discovering the world of sex, everything changed. “The physics teacher was super fly, he wasn’t exactly good looking, but he dressed well and he had girls around him all day long.

He used to make jokes and tell us stories about the places he went to, about the things he would buy, about his friends and whatnot… I didn’t used to think there was anything wrong with that. One day, my friend told me that he had been hanging around her, he gave her compliments; another day, she told me that he had touched her in the restroom and kissed her. It was funny because my friend liked the teacher.” 

Cuban hgh school student.

Shortly after, Jessica discovered that the teacher was doing this with quite a few students, and then she learned that he asked them to sleep with him so as to pass his class without having to study. It was all a strategy: he spent class-time talking about nonsense, entertaining the students, and then it was exam-time all of a sudden.

“At that time, with the exam around the corner, we were all in a tough spot, not the intelligent ones, but most of us didn’t know what we had to do in order to learn everything in just a few days.” Then the kind teacher would ask for money and for sexual favors from some girls.

“To tell you the truth, he never said it in class, it was outside of the school; for example, he told a girl, she spread the word and many of us gave it to him. It was something everybody knew about. But the sexual favors gradually happened, or at least I gradually learned about them; one day, a girl who knew nothing and didn’t study, suddenly passed the class; the next semester, more girls did and so on; and girls were spreading the word.

“It was different in my case because I didn’t want to do it, he was charming but I didn’t like him and in the end, I got annoyed with how much pressure he put on me. Because I didn’t give in to him, he would mock me in front of the others and when I’d complain to him, he’d say: you know what you have to do.

“I failed, but it was what we did at that school, instead of studying like I needed to, I spoke to my mom and she gave me the money I needed to pass, but she also told me off and punished me. The day of the exam rolled around and I was at a loss, but I trusted that everything would work out OK. It was the end of year exam, I was already on school holiday when he sent another student to tell me I had failed physics.

“I couldn’t believe it, I went to talk to him and reminded him about the money, but he told me that he wouldn’t pass me even if I paid him a thousand dollars. He was furious that I didn’t give in to his pressure. Just before the school year started again, I told my mother, she went to the school and spoke to the principal. She told her what was happening and she told my mother that they couldn’t do anything without proof. My mother insulted her, accused her of receiving her share of the money. I wasn’t going to repeat the year with the same professor, so I left the high school and enrolled at night school, but I left it after a few days because it was far away and I didn’t like the atmosphere.”

Jessica never studied again.

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2 thoughts on “An Account of Sexual Violence at a Cuban School

  • Rape and sexual assault are commonplace in Cuba. Violence against women and girls, in fact, is tolerated and encouraged there. I know first hand.

  • Cultural sexualization of young girls comes with all of its own set of unique problems. I often wonder if the parents are aware of how they are doing that to their daughters.

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