A young queer woman says a man "choked and hit" her in a store in London last week.
Dehayna Thomas, 21, said a man called her and her friend lesbians then later attacked them, leaving her bleeding from cuts on her lip and inner cheek, MyLondonreports.
The college student told the outlet that the man had yelled at staff while in line to pay for his items at the Primark store in the Westfield shopping mall. Thomas said he told him he would have to wait like the other people in line.
The man paid for his items, and then Thomas and her friend did. However, as the two friends made their way down the escalator to the lower floor of the Primark, Thomas said, the man was waiting for them at the bottom.
"He was waiting for us at the bottom of the escalator. I was very shocked. After we had that encounter at the till that and he paid, I assumed it was done. I didn't expect to see him there waiting by the escalator," Thomas said.
When the two friends reached the bottom of the escalator a confrontation happened.
"He continued having a go at us saying we were being disrespectful and we should respect him. And we were saying, 'You're a big man, you should leave us alone.' As we were leaving it just escalated and at one point he called us lesbians," Thomas told MyLondon.
The two women then began walking toward the elevators but the man then put his hands around Thomas' neck.
"He kind of switched when there was a lot of back-and-forth and swearing and then he charged at us and choked me and tried to punch me," Thomas recalled. "I remember his hand around my neck. The way he hit me it caused my teeth to cut my inner lip and my inner cheek, so I was bleeding. It was very frightening, to say the least."
She added that she froze while her friend tried to push the man away.
"I definitely froze up -- I was just there with my shopping bag in shock, like something like this couldn't be happening over something so small. My friend defended me and helped me," Thomas said.
The friend started filming the man as he left.
"In the moment, there's a lot of adrenaline, but it was more frightening once I realized I was bleeding. It was like I'm actually physically harmed," Thomas said. "My friend was like, you can't let him get away with this. There needs to be consequences to his actions."
Thomas said that she and her friend returned to the store and informed security of what happened. She claimed that they told her the man had also returned and was still looking for her and her friend. Security told her they had called the police.
The history student eventually made her way home and told her girlfriend about the incident.
"I was a bit shaken up, my nerves felt a bit anxious and what not. [The cut] is quite sore, it's quite tender and I'm expecting it to puss up in a few days," Thomas explained.
"I think he felt it wouldn't be that hard and we wouldn't put up a fight, and he could easily overpower us. And in some ways, he was able to do it because I was hurt and he wasn't. And it doesn't make it OK because of our stature and our gender," she said. "And also to be calling us lesbians, in a derogatory way in an LGBTQ+ History Month, it's very indicative of how much further we have to go."
Thomas said she'd take up self-defense classes after what happened.
"As a queer person myself, I think it's very disheartening when you hear of these situations occurring," she said. "I think people forget, especially in London, how far we have to go."