Women on TikTok Are Sharing Stories About Getting Punched Randomly in NYC

UPDATE 3/27/24: An NYPD spokesperson tells Glamour that deputies have arrested a 40-year-old Brooklyn resident, Skiboky Stora, for assault in connection with the attack on a 23-year-old in Manhattan on Monday, and the investigation remains ongoing.

Gizem Sirmali had lived in New York City for three days when a stranger hit her in the face on the sidewalk.

The content creator is originally from Turkey, and had moved to Manhattan from Germany for a two-month scholarship program through a marketing agency. On February 7 she had been walking around Soho, where her office was located. She tells Glamour that she remembers being distracted, taking photos and videos, excited to be in the city and using a map on her phone to guide her to her next destination.

“I was completely focused on my phone,” Sirmali recalls. “I was not aware of my surroundings, which was not good.”

Suddenly, she felt it, out of nowhere.

“It was more like a slap,” she says. “Someone approached me when I was looking down and then just walked away. It happened so fast. I was just like, ‘What? Did that happen? Or is it like, I’m just dreaming?’ I was so shocked.”

Terrified, she froze. She didn’t look around for her assailant; she didn’t shout. It happened too quickly for her to get a description, aside from the fact, she says, that the man was shorter than her.

“And then I just kept walking to the office because I was scared,” she says.

It was a traumatic experience, one that Sirmali says she has worked to try and move on from. She even posted a video on TikTok about it, writing, “Is this part of NYC life?” In the video she holds a cup of ice to her face, which she says was bruised for days afterward.

Her video got some sympathy, but then, suddenly this week, it exploded in views. Commenters began telling her that she wasn’t the only one.

Indeed, multiple women have been reporting via TikTok that they have been attacked in an eerily similar manner. The incidents began to get more attention on the app when an NYC-based influencer named Halley Kate Mcgookin posted that she had been “punched in the face” by a random man on the sidewalk. The video, in which a tearful Mcgookin shows the camera a giant welt on her forehead, has since been viewed more than 30 million times.

In follow-up videos, Mcgookin says she was walking on the sidewalk, sending an email from her phone, when she was either punched or “body-checked” by a man walking a dog, who proceeded to scream at her. She went to urgent care and filed a police report.

In response to an inquiry about Mcgookin’s video, a spokesperson for the NYPD tells Glamour that it was investigating a Monday incident in which a 23-year-old was hit in the head by an unknown individual. The spokesperson said no arrests have been made and an investigation is ongoing.

Since Mcgookin posted her video, more and more accounts emerged on the app. In response to Mcgookin’s video, one woman, named Mikayla, said a similar thing happened to her. She was looking at her phone and then she was hit.

And then in response to Mikayla, another woman shared her story, saying she was punched on March 23.

As the story grew, people also have found videos from earlier this year, and are boosting them because they seem to be falling in line with the pattern, like Sirmali’s video from February. A woman named Olivia said she was punched on the street earlier in March.

And a woman named Jill said she was assaulted the week before Sirmali.

While many of these accounts share similarities—like the fact that they are all young women, and many say they were looking at their phones when hit—it’s unclear whether this is just a coincidence or a bigger pattern. The NYPD spokesperson did not respond when asked whether the department was looking at the attacks as a group, and many, including Sirmali, never reported their assaults to the police at all.

In a follow-up video, Mcgookin said she didn’t think it seemed like all the attacks were by the same person, saying, “It may just be somewhat common.” She urged viewers to not get too carried away, saying she’s always felt safe in the city before this incident.

Sirmali says she hopes the increased attention may help in stopping this from happening to any others.

“It was a big shock and experience in my life, and I feel so sorry now that it’s happening to more people,” she said.

And while, of course, women should be able to look at their phone or be distracted while walking in the city without being assaulted, Sirmali said she posted her video to warn people to always be alert.

“It changed my behavior for two months,” she says. “I never looked at my phone when I was walking.”

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