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

Credit - @kendalllllllll888, @malous228, @pikapikanab/TikTok

Kendall Lieberman was walking to lunch with her coworkers down 7th Ave. in New York CIty on Tuesday when a man rammed his elbow in the side of her head near Times Square.

“I was just in full shock and I'm sure if I were alone, I probably would have reacted differently, but in the moment I just immediately held my head where he hit me…and my mind immediately went to all the other girls that I have seen all my TikTok getting hit,” Lieberman tells TIME. After the assault, the 24-year-old posted her own video about the incident on TIkTok, adding to the chorus of several young women who have taken to the social media platform to share similar tales in recent days.

The trend started after a video of Halley Kate, a New York City-based TikToker who was punched in the face on Monday, went viral online. Now, at least 12 women have shared videos about getting randomly punched on the street in New York. 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 told TIME on Wednesday it had a report on file for assault and arrested and charged 40-year-old Skiboky Stora. Late Wednesday night, the NYPD posted on X that detectives were aware of a viral video circulating online of a woman who was randomly assaulted, and were able to identify Stora “after he was previously arrested for similar attacks.”

Kate said Stora was her attacker in a TikTok video Wednesday evening. Stora previously ran for the District 9 seat on the New York City Council, and started a GoFundMe to run for mayor in 2025. An attorney representing Stora declined to comment.

Lieberman also says she has filed a police report about her assault.

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 those assaults happened on different days, and Lieberman says that her attacker did not look like the one she saw in a video captured by a separate user. 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 this week, 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.”

For Lieberman, who says she does not normally post on TikTok, sharing her story felt like a way to prevent others from being attacked. “I just wanted it on the record that it had happened,” she says, “and that it was happening to more people.”

Contact us at letters@time.com.