Melania Geymonat was attacked on a night bus in London. She is backing our campaign to make misogyny a hate crime.
In the early hours of 30 May, 2019, I got on the N31 night bus with my partner at the time, Chris. What happened next is largely a blur, but it projected the two of us into the national media spotlight, with even the British Prime Minister at the time, Theresa May, sending her condolences to us.
We were beaten up by a group of young men, who demanded that we kiss. It started off with aggressive harassment and quickly escalated into assault and robbery.
In the wake of being subjected to a homophobic hate crime on London’s public transport system, I have been looking to find ways that I can use my new platform to ensure that I prevent other, more vulnerable people from having to go through the horrors we did on that night. This is why I welcome the latest Citizens UK report on overcoming everyday forms of hate in the UK.
Immediately after the hate crime, we had to contend with the trauma from the attack itself, as well as the invasive public interest in our story. We felt the attention relative to other victims of more brutal violence was because of society’s prioritisation of white, able-bodied, cisgendered women, and felt exploited by the countless reporters, politicians, brands and celebrities seeking to attach themselves to our narrative.
It was important, in interviews and actions we’ve taken since, to call for allies to recognise the societal structures that both cause violence and privilege certain victims over others, and to put on a united front to tackle interconnected prejudices and barriers.
This is why I am pleased to add my name to the important calls for action put forward in the Citizens UK report. It sheds light on a number of significant trends that deserve our attention: not only the prevalence of hate crime in society, but also the fact that the impact which hate incidents have on victims are very similar, regardless of whether the attack in question is motivated by racism, homophobia, misogyny or any other forms of hostility.
Hate intersects and compounds itself. Our own experience informs us that incidents of this sort are rarely a matter of “just homophobia” (or biphobia) or “just misogyny.” It’s for these reasons I back Citizens UK’s call for making misogyny a hate crime in its own right, in addition to improving hate crime reporting mechanisms to enable victims to name more than one motivating factor, such as racism and disability, or gender and sexuality.
Nottinghamshire Police were the first police force in the country to categorise misogyny as a hate crime – and they have seen huge benefits as a result. They now have a better picture of how hate crimes work – and can now see how gendered hate crime is. As the Citizens UK report has demonstrated, hate motivated by gender is already a factor in 33.5% of all existing hate crime. 22.4% of incidents are solely motivated by gender. Without changes in the law, these nuances are not captured, and so the police will never get a full picture of the reasons why hate crimes happen, and so are a step behind when it comes to tackling such crimes head on. I’m pleased that in London and Manchester, such moves are now backed by Mayors Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham.
A legal system that does not protect victims of abuse and harassment enables violence through silent bystanding. From an overdue reform of hate crime law, to better mechanisms for how statutory bodies like the police and transport providers prevent, monitor and help victims report hate crime – this research charts how we can move closer to a peaceful, tolerant, and just society. I hope that politicians, police chiefs, and other decision-makers engage with these findings and take heed to the recommendations of the Law Commission published today.