WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — A couple that was walking in Northwest Sunday said teenagers came up to them, called them “monkeypox f-g–ts,” then punched them a number of times.

“I don’t know if it’s just from COVID or anecdotal evidence, but it’s been a crazy summer, and I know people I know that have stuff like this happen to them,” said Robert, one of the men who was attacked. “I feel like I’ve experienced more homophobia in DC this summer alone, than I have in Texas in my entire life.”

Robert and his boyfriend of several years, Antonio, moved to the D.C. area from Texas about two years ago. They told the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) they were walking in the 1700 block of 7th St. NW when the teenagers they encountered started yelling homophobic slurs which included the monkeypox reference.

“They said monkey pox F word to us. And at that point we turned to them saying, ‘what did you say to us?'” said Antonio.

Robert and Antonio initially turned to address the group, but they decided to walk away. That’s when one of the teenagers came up behind them and punched Robert in the head and Antonio in the mouth. Antonio needed stitches.

“Words matter. This all started just from words. Things can escalate. If you see something, call it out, don’t be afraid,” said Antonio.

MPD, which is investigating the incident as a possible hate crime, said that bias-related hate crimes are up in the District.

From January through June, there have been 23 of those crimes in Washington, compared to 17 during the same time period in 2021.

“I know stuff like this is happens, but DC middle of the day, where there’s very popular gay bars and businesses it’s pretty shocking to me,” said Robert.

Although members of the LGBTQ community are among people who are more vulnerable to contracting monkeypox, other people can develop it.

It typically manifests itself with a rash that can be located on or near the genitals of men or women or the posterior. The rash also could develop on are areas such as the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing. Initially, it can look like pimples or blisters. It may be painful or itchy.

Other symptoms of monkeypox can include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Exhaustion
  • Muscle aches and backache
  • Headache
  • Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)

You may experience all or only a few symptoms. Other things to note:

  • Sometimes, people have flu-like symptoms before the rash.
  • Some people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms.
  • Others only experience a rash.

There is a vaccine for monkeypox, but the U.S. has seen a very limited supply of it as health officials across the country try to administer it to people, including those who live in the District.