STUDENTS of at least four Corporate Area high schools complain that they are being terrorised by gangs of aggressive lesbians at their schools who target young, vulnerable girls for sexual favours.
Reports of the activities of these gangs have reached as high a level as the Ministry of Education. However, despite efforts to get information on what were reportedly top-level discussions within the ministry on the wave of reports of rampant lesbian activities in some high schools, there was no official response to the Sunday Observer's queries.
But a ministry source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that officials have received complaints from distraught parents who claim that their children are being bullied, or, in some cases, lured into these lesbian cliques.
One almost painfully shy fourth form student at a prominent Corporate Area high school, who said we could call her Keisha (which is not her real name), admitted that she is being terrorised by a group of belligerent lesbians at her school.
"A lot of the lesbians at my school act like man and they walk in a group," Keisha told the Sunday Observer.
She is one of a handful of teen girls who spoke with this newspaper, on condition of anonymity, about their experiences with gangs of teenaged lesbians in their high schools.
"Sometimes they would touch me on my breast when I use the bathroom and they would laugh," she elaborated.
So great is her fear of being sexually attacked by her same-sex peers, that she has stopped going to the school's bathroom alone.
"I am afraid to go into the bathroom by myself because the girls are bigger than me and I don't want them to hold me down," she said.
Her fear of being forced to endure unsolicited sexual activities is grounded in the fact that she has already been violated sexually by these girls.
She was reluctant to divulge the details of the assault, but her paranoia is apparent, and she is so traumatised by her experience that she has resorted to cutting herself.
Another student, who used the name 'Jenny', and who is a third form student at an all-girl Kingston high school, said her experience is somewhat different from Keisha's.
She said she has been friends with a group of lesbian classmates since they started high school and she is very accepting of their lifestyle choice as long as they don't try to involve her in their activities.
"For me, they have been my friends from seventh grade. As long as they don't put it to me, I'm OK. I will even listen to dem love problem," she said and recalled that even when they were in seventh grade, some of her friends boasted of intimate relationships with older girls in 11th grade.
'Boasted' being the operative word, because, according to Jenny, "it's a popularity thing now... they (the lesbians) are the most popular girls in school now".
"A lot of them, it's more accepted now and they can show themselves up more," she claimed.
Jenny also admitted that she knows that some of the girls gang up on the seventh graders, explaining, in a very matter-of-fact way, that "yes, dem gang dem. Some trying to get some girls from first form 'cause dem vulnerable at dat stage".
"Is a big problem, especially if they think you are that way, they will try to get wid you," she added.
When the Sunday Observer asked Keisha if her own experience with being constantly fondled against her will by lesbian gangs was unique to her school, she insisted she had heard about it happening elsewhere.
"Yes, I know girls who go to other schools who have been attacked because lesbians try to touch them and they refuse. These girls (the lesbians) usually are in groups and they are usually very intimidating," she explained.
As terrified as Keisha is about being targeted by lesbian classmates, she is more terrified about her family finding out about her troubles with this unwelcome sexual attention in school.
"I don't tell my parents, but I tell my friends and we go together in a group to use the bathroom and protect each other," she said.
Keisha said she has refused to share her experiences with adults, aside from confiding in a counsellor who has no connection to her school. She has absolutely no faith in the school system or guidance counsellors.
"Many students don't feel like they can trust the teachers to tell them about lesbians attacking them, and also, we are afraid of other students finding out and talking about it. They might say that is my fault and think I'm a lesbian too," the young girl said.
She added that sexual assaults similar to hers are often unreported, because the perpetrators are usually athletic and involved in school sports and have no problem starting fights.
"Most of the time, no report is made because of fear. So nothing happens," she said.
Jenny claimed that at her school, the guidance counsellor, and even the dean of discipline have been made aware of the situation. The Sunday Observer was unable to get an official comment on the matter from that school.
However, according to the teen, "teachers dem know but dem can't go to a girl and seh 'you are a lesbian', because they know they will get the wrong".
This was corroborated by sexologist Shelley-Ann Weeks, in whom some of the girls interviewed for this article have chosen to confide.
Weeks said guidance counsellors are required to report any assault of a sexual nature to the authorities. As is the case with heterosexual rape victims, there is great reluctance to report the incident to the police, for fear of victimisation.
"Some girls suffer in silence, and if you ask them about it, they are going to deny it," she said.
In fact, the issue is so taboo, that the silence extends into the schools' administrations.
After being contacted by the Sunday Observer, a senior staff member at one Kingston high school confirmed she had heard the reports of lesbian gangs at her institution. However, while very candid off the record, she did not want her name, nor that of her school mentioned.
"Talk is there, but there is no evidence," she said, alluding to the problem which seems to dog many of these cases -- the lack of proof because no one is willing to state the facts publicly.
She explained that over time, parents have complained about problems with their daughters being bullied by homosexual classmates, but when the time comes for the school to act, no one wants to identify the culprits.
She confirmed what this paper's investigations had revealed -- that parents at a recent PTA meeting almost came to blows over the hot-button issue as fingers were pointed at their daughters.
She said from time to time there is a wave of rumours that the school is rife with lesbians. Some of these rumours, she feels, are circulated by rival co-ed schools. The school's administration responds with a major intervention programme. However, it eventually peters out when no one comes forward with names.
The senior staff member explained that the school has turned to its guidance counsellor for help and has been having open discussions about the issue with the student population.
School officials, she added, have also been made aware that adult females have been attempting to lure schoolgirls into relationships by offering them money, among other things.
But she offered another angle, that for some teen girls, being a part of a lesbian crew carries with it a level of prestige, a social boost that some girls wouldn't otherwise get.
Psychologist and sex therapist Dr Sydney McGill agrees.
"Lesbianism in schools today may not follow classical patterns. It is normal for young, pubescent girls who are just finding or exploring their sexuality to show interest in other girls and even (female) teachers," he said, adding that usually, the girls grow out of it.
But, he said, in Jamaica today, this phenomenon of lesbian groups in schools is more related to Jamaican gang culture.
"To be part of a gang, it's not just boys, but girl gangs have an aggressive connotation today," he said.
In fact, McGill believes lesbian school gangs are now touting their behaviour as a way up the social pecking order in schools.
"It is a badge of honour to be part of these groups, and a big deal," he explained, blaming a crisis of leadership in the home and in society.
Also, being a part of this powerful and feared group of sexual bullies inspires admiration and provides a sense of security among more insecure girls, McGill added.
"If you don't have a functioning male in the house and no mother or female figure who feels secure in providing and protecting the child, it (joining lesbian gangs at school) has a bearing on economics as well," he said.
However, a major factor, he also feels, is the over-sexualisation of Jamaican children
Weeks thinks this phenomenon is a shocking reality that society just needs to tackle head-on.
"I feel that as adults we cannot continue trying to hide sexuality from young people, because they are being exposed to it on a daily basis," she said. "The sex education that exists now in schools is clearly not enough to arm them with what they need to make responsible decisions."
She feels more information on sexual identity and discrimination should be included in the lessons that are being offered now in classrooms.
"It's time we open our eyes to the fact that our young people are dealing with sexuality issues and it's our job to guide them and give them the correct tools so that they can make a smooth transition to adulthood," Weeks said.