By Mahita Gajanan
June 7, 2019

Police in London are calling for witnesses after a couple was assaulted and robbed in a homophobic attack on a London bus.

Melania Geymonat, one of the victims in the attack, posted a photo on Facebook of her and her girlfriend Chris, both covered in blood. Geymonat wrote that she and Chris were on a date the evening of May 30. They caught the bus to head home and were sat on the upper deck when a group of about four men began harassing them, according to her Facebook post.

“They started behaving like hooligans, demanding that we kissed so they could enjoy watching, calling us ‘lesbians’ and describing sexual positions,” she wrote. “In an attempt to calm things down, I started making jokes. I thought this might make them go away.”

The men ignored Geymonat’s attempts to diffuse the situation. Instead, their behavior escalated. They punched both women repeatedly and stole their belongings.

“I don’t know yet if my nose is broken, and 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 wrote. “I’m tired of being taken as a SEXUAL OBJECT, of finding out that these situations are usual, of gay friends who were beaten up JUST BECAUSE.”

London’s Metropolitan Police are investigating the incident, according to a statement, which details that the women were punched several times before the men ran off the bus, and that a bag and phone were stolen during the attack. Both women were taken to the hospital to treat injuries to their faces, police said.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan called the assault a “disgusting, misogynistic attack” and a hate crime.

“This is not the first situation men see two women kissing and they start acting like we were a show,” Geymonat said in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s World at One, adding that said she had experienced “a lot of verbal violence.” Other gay friends of hers living in London have also been the victims of assaults, she said.

Homophobic hate crimes have been on the rise in London in recent years, according to the Metropolitan Police’s crime dashboard. In 2018, 2,308 homophobic hate crimes were reported, up from 1,782 in 2015. As of April, 764 homophobic hate crimes have been reported in 2019.

Write to Mahita Gajanan at mahita.gajanan@time.com.

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