Published on Thursday, 22 November 2012 12:49 Written by Alison Rourke
Fanny Desaintjores, 22, who is understood to be from Juilley, 350km west of Paris, told Fairfax Media she thought the passenger who abused her for singing a French song was initially joking.
Video filmed by a Melbourne bus passenger shows two men
abusing and threatening a woman for singing in French
"Then I realised he wasn't kidding at all, so my friends and I stopped laughing. We were quite afraid that he [would come] and hit us," she said.
The abuse, which happened on 11 November, was captured on video by another passenger. It shows the abusive man telling Desaintjores to "speak English or die, motherfucker". He then appeared to threaten to "cut the bitch's tits off".
Another man also threatens Desaintjores: "I'll fucking boxcutter you right now, dog, if you talk to my missus like that," says the male passenger, shown pushing a baby buggy. He called her a "fucking ding" – a derogatory term for a migrant. Moments after he left the bus, he apparently smashed a bus window close to the French women, with glass hitting Desaintjores and her friends.
"At this point I was really scared," said Desaintjores.
As the video and the story went international, Australian commentators wondered how to address such behaviour and attitudes. Peter Munro, writing on the issue in Fairfax media, questioned why so few of the passengers spoke up in defence for the Desaintjores. Instead another passenger offered her abuser a beer and a pat on the back.
"How many times does someone have to scream 'I hate blacks' at a foreigner on a crowded bus before you protest? What if the same bigot yelled, 'Speak English or die, motherf---er' – would you tell him to stop?"
Readers of Melbourne's Herald Sun – Australia's biggest selling tabloid daily – roundly condemned the abuse. "There is no place in this day and age for racism of any kind," said one person who wrote in. "Disgraceful sexist abuse should not be tolerated," said another.
The abuser – who police have not been able to identify – appeared to be talking on his mobile phone to someone during the verbal attack.
The incident was filmed by comedian Mike Nayna, who told the Herald Sun newspaper that others around the abusive man appeared to be encouraging him.
Desaintjores said her group of friends had not heard the man's threats at first but things escalated quickly.
"I was sitting I the middle of the bus at the back, so he could stare at me while screaming," said Desaintjores. "I realise that maybe we shouldn't sing on public transport, but I think that's insane that they reacted like that [since] we're all adults. We could have a conversation and talk gently instead of all these insults and threats."
Police say they have received a number of phone calls and are actively pursuing the investigation. No arrests had been made and the victims had not formally complained, police said.