A 21-year-old queer woman was choked and punched inside a London Primark in what she said was an attack fueled by homophobia.
Dehayna Thomas, a history student, said the man attacked her inside a Westfield shopping center after he had been yelling at staff while waiting in line to pay for something. She told him that just like everyone else, he had to wait.
Thomas thought the interaction was over and was shocked to find the man waiting for her and her friends outside the store.
“He continued having a go at us saying we were being disrespectful and we should respect him,” she told MyLondon. “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.”
They tried to get away from him, but Thomas said he “charged” at her and wrapped his hands around her neck.
“There was a lot of back and forth and swearing and then he charged at us and choked me and tried to punch me. 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.”
They reported the incident to mall security, who called the police.
Thomas remains frightened by the incident and will be taking self defense classes.
“It reminds you that there is blatant discrimination out there and you have to be very cautious sometimes. And you have to be aware of your surroundings if you appear to be overtly queer.”
Thomas has felt extremely uneasy about the fact that the incident involved a man attacking a group of women.
“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.”
A statement from Primark voiced support for Thomas and her friends.
“The safety of our colleagues and customers in our stores is our number one priority. We are aware of an incident that took place in our Westfield store last Thursday evening; Primark’s security team were alerted and arrived straight away to deal with the incident and were joined minutes later by Westfield’s security team to assist the customer who had suffered an alleged assault. As this is now an ongoing police investigation, we can’t comment further at this time.”