Women in NYC Are Posting TikToks About Getting Punched in the Face on the Street

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When Halley Kate, a New York City-based TikToker posted a video on Monday shortly after getting punched in the face by a stranger, at least 12 more young women posted on the social media platform to share similar tales. 

“I was literally like leaving class, I turned the corner, and I was looking down and I was looking at my phone and texting and then out of nowhere this man just came up and hit me in the face,” Mikayla Toninato, a TikTok user who posted about her assault on Tuesday, said in her video. “I’m like actually in shock right now. I’m just walking home because what else do you do?”

It’s unclear whether the reports are part of a broader coordinated attack on women, or how many people have been perpetrating the assaults. (Most women said a man initiated the attack, though others said a woman had.) In response to a list of questions about the TikTok videos, whether the New York Police Department (NYPD) is investigating the assaults, and crime rates in NYC, the NYPD said it has a report on file for assault and on Wednesday arrested and charged 40-year-old Skiboky Stora for hitting a woman in the head on Monday. The investigation remains ongoing, a spokesperson said. The NYPD did not say whether Stora’s victim, who wasn’t named in the police report, was one of the women who posted about her assault on TikTok. It’s not clear whether Stora has retained an attorney.

There are certain patterns that have emerged from the initial series of TikTok videos: some victims have shared similar details about being on the phone when the assault happened. At least two users said they were attacked near Times Square—though the assaults happened on different days. Others said the attacks were in neighborhoods including Noho, the East Village, and Brooklyn. All the women say they were punched, or the perpetrator attempted to punch them, on the street in broad daylight. Not all of the attacks happened in the last 48 hours, but many women have been emboldened to share previous assaults.

“I was just walking down the street today at like 5, so kind of midday, and this woman walks past me… and out of nowhere I feel someone grab the back of my head, pulling my hair, trying to pull me to the ground,” said Desiree Brady in a TikTok video posted on Tuesday night. Brady said she was then punched in the face. 

The emerging number of videos of young women sharing their stories are the latest high-profile incidents that have stirred conversations about safety in New York City. On Wednesday, a young man died after being pushed onto the subway track. On March 14, a subway shooting on the A train made national headlines. In early March, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced her plan to deploy 1,000 personnel, including 750 National Guard troops, to “protect New Yorkers on the subways.” Another 800 officers were deployed after the subway shooting.

Despite online chatter about increasing crime in the city, Christopher Herrmann, a professor at the CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice who was a former crime analyst supervisor with the New York Police Department, says that notion is not quite true. “If you’re looking at the numbers, overall, total crime is down a little over 2% this year,” he says. “Robbery is down 80% since the ‘90s and assault is down 26% since the ‘90s. So we’re nowhere close to… when crime was really kind of rampant in New York City.”

Still, a collection of year-to-date statistics by the NYPD found that felony assault and robbery have increased by 3% and 4.1% so far in 2024, respectively. “These are the high volume, violent crimes that a lot of people care about and that a lot of people hear about. When it goes up a percent or two, you know, we’re talking about dozens of more victims every week now,” says Herrmann. More serious crimes like murder have decreased by 17.8%. Rape has gone done by 1.2%. 

Herrmann says he isn’t sure whether the alarming number of videos about women getting hit in the street is part of a social media trend highlighting a crime rate that already existed, or whether this specific street crime rate is rising in NYC. Many crimes go unreported; a Pew Research Center report found that only 40.9% of violent crimes were reported in 2019.

“This is one of the problems with crime statistics in general. Someone posts something on TikTok and all of a sudden, it’s like, ‘Oh, hey, that happened to me too,’” says Herrmann. Referencing the number of videos posted online after Kate’s initial post, he adds, “You get that snowball effect.”

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