Multiple women online say they were punched while walking around New York City

Several women have come forward on social media sharing incidents in which they said they were punched by men while they were walking the streets of downtown Manhattan in broad daylight in the last month.

Multiple videos — which were uploaded to TikTok — have picked up traction in the last week, with women online sharing their safety concerns in comments and reply videos. One woman said she was assaulted walking home from class. Another said she was assaulted on her way to work. A third woman said she was attacked walking her dog. At least two of the women described suspects with similar characteristics. 

New York police said they made an arrest in one of the incidents and are investigating another. While police wouldn’t confirm that the incidents described in the TikTok videos are those they are investigating, they shared that they’re looking into two cases that are very similar to accounts posted on social media.  

Officials said it’s unclear whether the two incidents they are investigating are connected. 

The videos have circulated amid widespread perceptions in the U.S. that crime is rising, despite recent FBI data that suggests it decreased last year

Concerns over public safety have continued to loom in New York City. A series of recent high-profile crimes in the subway system prompted Gov. Kathy Hochul to send National Guard members to some of the busiest stations.

In February, police reported a decrease in shootings, murders and other crimes, like grand larceny, as opposed to February of last year. However, there was a 3.6% uptick in felony assault, with 1,968 incidents reported to police last month. According to crime statistics for this past week, misdemeanor assault is up 10.3% from this time last year, and it has gone up 15.7% in the past two years. 

A police spokesperson declined to answer any additional questions about the recent assault incidents, including whether they represent an uptick in violent crime against women in the city or whether the police department is taking any additional measures to ensure their safety.

Sarah Harvard, 30, was among the women who shared her experience online after she saw other women post videos. 

Harvard, who posted Tuesday on X, said she was walking to her comedy gig on the Lower East Side when she was punched in the back of the head near the Delancey Street and Essex Street station the evening of March 19. 

“I was not on my phone. I was walking somewhere, and I got attacked from behind,” she told NBC News. “So it’s really violating that I didn’t see it coming and there was nothing I could’ve done, really, to prevent it from happening.”

She described experiencing a “spiky pain, throbbing feeling” in her head as she was walking home after the incident. The rest of the night, she said, she had nausea, headaches, dizziness and blurry vision.

Harvard said she initially didn’t go to the police because she thought that it was an isolated incident and that officials might brush it off. Since she learned that more women have come forward online to say they’ve been assaulted, she said, she plans to file a police report. 

Since the attack, Harvard said, she is struggling with feeling unsafe in the city she calls home.

“What’s really unbearable is that general never-ending feeling now of feeling unsafe and feeling constantly alert, constantly looking over my shoulder,” she said. “This anxiety is manifesting physically, too. I slept last night for two hours; the night before, I slept for four hours. I’m having trouble breathing, and my chest is getting really tight.”

In their TikTok videos, women have echoed similar sentiments describing their interactions with their alleged assailants. 

A woman said she was walking Monday when a man punched her in the face, causing a big lump to develop on her head.

“You guys, I was literally just walking and a man came up and punched me in the face,” she said tearfully in a TikTok video. “Oh, my God, it hurts so bad. I can’t even talk.”

The woman didn’t say where exactly she was when she was assaulted. NBC News conducted a geolocation of where she was walking in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. 

Police said an incident happened at 10:20 a.m. in the area of West 16th Street and 7th Avenue when “an unknown individual hit her in the head.”

“The victim fell to the ground and suffered injuries to the left side of her face. The victim was treated at a local medical facility,” police said in a report shared with NBC News.

She shared an update to TikTok in which she said she was looking at her phone when a man walking a dog assaulted her.

“There was so much room on the sidewalk, and, like, literally nobody was around, and I guess this man — I don’t know if he punched me or if he elbowed me. I literally passed out,” she said. “So I don’t really remember, but I think he just was really mad that my head was down.”

Skiboky Stora, 40, of Brooklyn, was arrested Wednesday on an assault charge in connection with the incident, police said.

Stora has sought public office seats in New York since 2021, public records show. He participated in a New York City mayoral debate in 2021. In 2022, he filed a handwritten petition to get on the ballot for New York governor. Last year, records show, Stora ran for the District 9 seat on the New York City Council.

Over a week before the Monday assault, in an area just over a mile south from where that victim was, another woman reported getting punched by a man who apologized before he hit her.

“I literally just got punched by some man on the sidewalk,” the woman said in a TikTok video. “He goes ‘Sorry’ and then punches me in the head.”

Police say an incident happened at around 11:48 a.m. March 17 while a woman was walking her dog in the area of Kenmare and Mulberry streets. 

“No injuries were reported as a result of this incident,” police said in a report.

In an update posted to her TikTok account, the woman addressed questions she received about what she was doing leading up to the assault.

“I wasn’t looking down at my phone,” she said. “I was just literally across the street from my building walking my dog to the dog park. I had seen the man. He was, like, slightly walking toward me, and I didn’t think anything of it. And then he says, ‘Sorry,’ and hits me and was immediately gone.”

She said a woman who witnessed the assault came over to help her. 

Neither of the women who posted on TikTok responded to requests for comment. Several others who also posted videos didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Many women online have since expressed that seeing the videos of other women sharing their alleged experiences have left them feeling uneasy.

“I have never felt so unsafe in the city than I do now,” reality TV personality Melinda Melrose, who was on the show “Too Hot to Handle,” said in a TikTok. “This is another reason why I packed all my things out of my apartment, put them in storage and I’m moving. I do not got time to end up on the news and become someone’s victim.”

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