LONDON — Five teenagers have been arrested in connection with a homophobic attack on two women on a London bus that prompted widespread condemnation in the UK.
The attack took place on a night bus on May 30 as the couple, Melania Geymonat and her partner Chris, were traveling home from an evening out together.
Geymonat posted a photograph on Facebook of the aftermath of the attack, showing the pair sitting on the bus, covered in blood.
In the accompanying account of the attack, in English and Spanish, Geymonat said that at least four men began harassing the couple when they saw them kissing. The group made lewd comments, demanded that they kiss and eventually assaulted and robbed them, Geymonat said.
“They started behaving like hooligans, demanding that we kissed so they could enjoy watching, calling us ‘lesbians’ and describing sexual positions,” she wrote.
Geymonat said she started making jokes in an attempt to defuse the situation. But the men “kept on harassing us, throwing us coins and becoming more enthusiastic about it.”
“The next thing I know is that Chris is in the middle of the bus fighting with them,” Geymonat said. “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.”
Geymonat told CNN Friday night that it was “not the first time in my life I have felt violated, even though it is the first time my nose has been broken.”
She said she felt angry at the situation but is “thankful it didn’t go worse,” adding that she will have a small procedure next week to fix her broken nose.
The Metropolitan Police said four males, aged between 15 and 18, had been arrested on suspicion of robbery and causing grievous bodily harm. Detective Superintendent Andy Cox said inquires were continuing into the “disgusting” assault. “Lots of people will understandably be outraged by this attack,” he said in a statement. “Our efforts to trace all the suspects involved and bring them in for questioning will be relentless.”
The Metropolitan Police confirmed on Saturday that a 16-year-old boy was arrested on Saturday.
London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, condemned the incident, saying it was a “disgusting, misogynistic attack.” He wrote on Twitter: “Hate crimes against the LGBT+ community will not be tolerated in London.”
The Prime Minister, Theresa May, joined the condemnation. “This 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.”
Geymonat told CNN that she told her story on Facebook to raise awareness and that in the aftermath, found out that many of her friends had been harassed because of their sexuality.
“I found out many gay friends have been beaten up because they were gay and many women friends are feeling harassed because they are sitting in a bar with a friend and harassed by men,” she said.
“Or, in my case, if I am with someone I am dating [and] someone comes to talk to us [and] I say I am dating her, they say, ‘Oh you should kiss because I don’t believe you.’ It is [a] kind of entertainment.”
In her Facebook post, Geymonat, a flight attendant originally from Uruguay, expressed concern that it took the release of shocking photographs of violence against women to prompt a public response.
“I haven’t been able to go back to work, but what upsets me the most is that VIOLENCE HAS BECOME A COMMON THING, that sometimes it’s necessary to see a woman bleeding after having been punched to feel some kind of impact,” she said.
“We have to endure verbal harassment AND CHAUVINIST, MISOGYNISTIC AND HOMOPHOBIC VIOLENCE because when you stand up for yourself s**t like this happens.”