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Friday, October 13, 2017 by Vansh

Street Smart : Latinas Who Date Gang Members Are Trapped in a Life of Parties, Marriage

"I always get their phone number. I always call them, " she says. "You just gotta be very careful."

Seeming both proud and angry at the memory of a beating she once took from a jealous former boyfriend, Rosa remembers his warnings: "You better watch what you do, you better watch the gangs you see."

"You get these guys who are jealous and possessive of you," she says. "When you're going out with them, you're theirs. That guy wouldn't let me out of his sight."

She now laughs at his demands for her not to wear her trademark dark lipstick and not to dress in miniskirts, in fear that other guys would go after her. Still, when she goes out with her girlfriends now, her current boyfriend tells her: "You better check your rear-view mirror--I'm watching you."

Despite their boyfriends' intense jealousy, the girls enjoy the attention a possessive boyfriend gives. They say they like being with someone who always wants them within eyesight. They are moved by the crazy, romantic passion of a gangster who would literally kill for his woman.

They proudly exchange stories of jealous boyfriends and ones who slap them around, just as their gangsters tell tales of fighting a rival gang or fending off the police.

But while they half-seriously, half-jokingly complain about their gangsters, most would not have it any other way.

"There's always something going on in a relationship like that. There's competition, and I like that," says Rosa, who can flash any local gang's sign.

She unhesitatingly says that she will always date gangsters. "They show that they care about you a lot," she says. For her, life without a gangster "wouldn't be exciting."

The young women who date gang members say they enjoy the married-to-the-gang life style.

They say they like being at the hub of gang life. They like knowing what is going on in different gangs and being welcome at the houses where gang members congregate.

"There's always something going on, whether it's fighting or this or that," Rosa says. "And they always want you right there."

Most say they would not feel safe in some neighborhoods if they were not hanging out with or dating a gangster.

"If anything happens to us, they're right there with their guns," Rosa says. "They protect you."

Diane, who is 15 but easily passes for 19, has been dating since she was 12.

"Nowadays," she says, "the girls that are 12 look much older, and the girls that are 13 are all burned out."

Most of them are looking for cocaine, and when they figure out which guy has it, they flirt with him until they get it. It's a two-way street, she says. Guys want information or sex, and girls want a line of coke.

Summing up the party-sex scene, Monique says: "You have it all there (alcohol and different kinds of drugs), and he pays for everything. . . . These guys have been down the road and back, and if the girl is young, she'll just go for it. The guy is drunk and saying, 'Don't worry, I'll take care of you.' You find out later he's married."

Diane says the only type of contraceptive she knows about are "those pills that some girls take."

In fact, many of the Latinas interviewed stare blankly when asked what type of contraceptives they use, and most laugh at the idea of their boyfriends using a condom.

"Birth control? It's up to the girl," Monique says flatly. "Most girls want protection. Most guys don't care."

However, most of the girls who date gang members do not use contraceptives and have no idea what safe sex is about, says Estela Martinez, director of education at Planned Parenthood in Santa Ana, which covers Orange and San Bernardino counties.

Because they often ditch classes or simply never go to school, many of the women who date gangsters do not receive adequate sex education, she says.

"A majority of Latino families have a problem with talking about sexuality openly," says Martinez, who operates a program through Planned Parenthood to help Latino families communicate about sexual issues. "In the family, it's still a taboo subject."