A lesbian couple who were attacked on a London bus – leaving them bloodied and bruised – have been abused online by cruel trolls after they made headlines around the world.
Melania Geymonat, 28, from Uruguay, was riding the bus with her American girlfriend Chris after an evening out in West Hampstead in the early hours of May 30.
Bus operator Metroline said it had footage of the attack, which has sparked a wave of homophobic abuse online.
The Metropolitan Police said a fifth teenage boy had been arrested this morning.
Underneath an article on Facebook, one man wrote: “That’s what you get for being gay.”
Another user said: “No wonder my brother still can’t find a girl to marry. All the girls have been taken by girls.”
Responding to a CNN story on Twitter, one troll replied: “Don’t do that in public. See now the results of being silly?”
But Chris and Ms Geymonat said that they remain “not scared to be visibly queer”, despite the torrent of abuse.
According to the pair, a gang of young men saw them holding hands, and demanded the pair kiss while making crude sexual gestures.
Chris told BBC London News: “They got up out of their seats and walked over to where we were and started very aggressively harassing us.
“One of them stayed a couple of rows behind and was throwing coins at us.
“I did not engage with him at all. Initially Melania was trying to de-escalate the situation. She was being friendly but trying to keep them at bay.
“I was and still am angry. It was scary, but what is still making me angry is that this is not a novel situation.
“There are more hate crimes being committed. We’re just one anecdote.”
Both women were left with facial injuries, and were also allegedly robbed.
The attack took place at 2.30am on May 30 as the pair were travelling to Chris’ home in Camden.
The American added: “Fighting broke out and I don’t know how we got from fighting on the top of the bus down to the lower deck but in that time frame they took my phone, her bag and they ran off the bus.”
Chris was left with a broken jaw, while Miss Geymonat sustained a broken nose.
And Melania, who lives in Bishop Stortford, in Essex, added: “The violence is not only because we are women who are dating each other – it’s also because we are women.”
Chris said: “I’m not scared about being visibly queer.
“There are a lot of people’s rights at risk and people’s basic safety is at risk.
“I want people to feel emboldened to stand up to the same people who feel emboldened. I want people to stand up for themselves and each other.”
Scotland Yard confirmed it was investigating the “homophobic attack”.
Detectives said five teenage males, aged between 15 and 18, have been arrested on suspicion of robbery and aggravated GBH following the vile attack.
Ms Geymonat, who currently works as a Ryanair stewardess during sabbatical from her medical career, also recalled the shock attack.
She said: “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.
“They wanted us to kiss so they could watch us. I tried to defuse the situation as I’m not a confrontational person, telling them to please leave us alone as Chris wasn’t feeling well.
“The next thing I remember was Chris in the middle of them and they were beating her.
“I didn’t think about it and went in. I was pulling her back and trying to defend her so they started beating me up.
“I don’t even know if I was knocked unconscious. I felt blood, I was bleeding all over my clothes and all over the floor. We went downstairs and the police were there.
“It’s not something isolated, it’s common. We were seen as entertainment, that’s what makes me so angry.”
Both women were later treated at hospital for their injuries.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme today, Melania said: “It’s a surprise to me. I know that there is a lot of verbal violence all the time, and that’s the thing that made me tell the story.
“Even when these guys came, it was not the first situation when men see two women kissing and they start asking us if we were a show.
“I have gay friends who have been in the streets and they have been punched all over.
“Other people have told me a lot of violence is going on, that we were even lucky that we were on a bus because if we were in the streets, nobody knows what could have happened.”
She praised Metropolitan Police officers, whom she said had been “extremely good”.
The attack received global attention after the Uruguayan published an account of the experience in a Facebook post on Wednesday, which has now attracted more than 3,700 comments and 9,700 shares.
Mrs May said: “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.”
Mr Corbyn labelled the attack “absolutely shocking”, adding: “We must not, and will not, accept this homophobic and misogynist violence in our society.
“Solidarity to Melania and Chris, and to all in the LGBT+ community for everything they endure for simply being who they are.”
Tulip Siddiq MP, in whose Hampstead and Kilburn constituency the violent attack occurred, added: “Horrified to see this homophobic attack against two women simply trying to enjoy a night out in West Hampstead.
“There can be no excuses, no space, for such obscene behaviour. My full solidarity is with these women and the UK’s LGBT community.”
Melania graduated from the Universidad de la República in Uruguay, with a degree in medicine, and before moving to the UK, she worked at the Montevideo’s Hospital de Clínicas.
Siwan Hayward, director of compliance, policing and on-street services at Transport for London, said: “This sickening attack is utterly unacceptable. Homophobic behaviour and abuse is a hate crime and won’t be tolerated on our network.
“All of our customers have the right to travel without fear of verbal or physical assault and we are working with the police to stamp out this behaviour on our transport network. We will do all we can to support the police investigation of this incident.”
Anyone who witnessed the incident or who has information that could assist the investigation is also asked to contact police on 101 or tweet @MetCC and quote CAD737/30May. Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111