Five British teenagers have been arrested over a brutal attack on a lesbian couple who refused to kiss on a bus.
Melania Geymonat and her partner Chris said they were attacked on the top deck of a London night bus in the early hours of May 30.
Geymonat detailed the incident in a post on Facebook, saying that a group of young men realized the pair were a couple and started asking them to kiss.
“Last Wednesday, I had a date with Chris. We got on the Night Bus, heading for her place in Camden Town, climbed upstairs and took the front seats,” Geymonat wrote. “We must have kissed or something because these guys came after us. I don’t remember if they were already there or if they got on after us. There were at least four of them. They started behaving like hooligans, demanding that we kissed so they could enjoy watching, calling us ‘lesbians’ and describing sexual positions. I don’t remember the whole episode, but the word ‘scissors’ stuck in my mind.”
Geymonat said that she and Chris were alone on the top deck of the bus with the men.
She attempted to calm the situation by “making jokes,” hoping that the men would go away.
“Chris even pretended she was sick, but they kept on harassing us, throwing us coins and becoming more enthusiastic about it,” she continued. “The next thing I know is that Chris is in the middle of the bus fighting with them. On an impulse, I went over there only to find her face bleeding and three of them beating her up. The next thing I know is I’m being punched. I got dizzy at the sight of my blood and fell back. I don’t remember whether or not I lost consciousness. Suddenly the bus had stopped, the police were there and I was bleeding all over.”
Geymonat said that the teenagers stole a phone and a bag from the women before fleeing the bus.
Both women were taken to hospital for treatment of facial injuries, the Metropolitan Police said in a statement.
Met Police have since arrested five teenagers, aged between 15 and 18, on suspicion of robbery and aggravated grievous bodily harm.
Detective Superintendent Andy Cox, Roads and Transport Policing Command, said it was a “disgusting attack on two women who appear to have been picked out and targeted by a group of youths.”
“The suspects have made a number of homophobic comments towards the couple before throwing coins at them,” Cox said in a statement. “When the women tried to reason with the group, the attack escalated to an assault.”
Police are reviewing CCTV footage from the incident, and Cox urged any witnesses with more information to come forward.
He also tried to reassure those who might fear traveling on London’s night bus services in future.
“Attacks of this nature on London buses are rare,” Cox said. “I would like to reassure those heading out over the weekend that extra uniformed and plain clothes Safer Transport officers will be out on patrol working to keep them safe and prevent crime.”
Prime Minister Theresa May said it was “a sickening attack and my thoughts are with the couple affected.”
“Nobody should ever have to hide who they are or who they love and we must work together to eradicate unacceptable violence towards the LGBT community,” May said in a statement.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said it was a “disgusting, misogynistic attack” in a tweet, and added that “hate crimes against the LGBT+ community will not be tolerated in London.”
Laura Russell, director of campaigns, policy and research at British LGBTQ organization Stonewall, said the attack was an “upsetting reminder of how much we still have to do for LGBT equality.”
“This wasn’t just a homophobic attack ” it had misogyny thrown in for good measure,” Russell said in a statement. “It’s tempting to think that in 2019, lesbians and bi women are safe from attacks like these, and indeed we all should be. But sadly, this isn’t the reality.”
She added: “Government research found that more than two thirds of LGBT people said they had avoided holding hands with a same-sex partner for fear of a negative reaction from others. This attack is a reminder of why this is the case.”
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s World at One, Geymonat said that she had experienced “a lot of verbal violence,” but had never been physically attacked for her sexuality.
Asked if she now feared holding hands in public, Chris, who is from the United States but lives in the United Kingdom, said that she is “not scared about being visibly queer. If anything, you should do it more.”