TikTok claims of women being sucker-punched in NYC investigated by police

Several women have taken to TikTok to discuss being randomly punched in the streets of New York City. NYPD said they have identified seven instances of such unprovoked assaults. TikTok @mikaylatoninato & @halleykate

Over the last two weeks, numerous women in New York City have made viral claims they were randomly punched by a stranger in the street, eliciting fear among some living in the metropolis.

On Friday, the New York Police Department (NYPD) said they have identified seven instances in which women from the city have made social media posts about being punched in the last two weeks, ABC News reported.

Already, NYPD officers have made three arrests in relation to unprovoked assaults on women in the city.

Officials said there is no evidence that the instances of punching are connected, but are likely indicative of the many random attacks that occur in New York City daily.

The women who said they have been punched without provocation have used TikTok to alert others about the assaults and encourage women to remain aware when in public. NYPD said TikTok has become a platform to disseminate information about the alleged attacks.

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Among the women claiming to have been assaulted is Real Housewives of New York City star Bethenny Frankel, who said she was randomly hit in the face by a stranger months ago but was too “embarrassed” to speak about it publicly. (Frankel is not among the seven instances identified by police.)

Before Frankel’s admission, 25-year-old Olivia Brand was the first woman that the NYPD identified as making a social media claim she’d been assaulted by a stranger in public. In a video posted to TikTok on March 17, Brand said she was punched in the head by a person she did not know. Brand was walking her dog when the attack occurred.

(WARNING: The video below contains strong language.) 


I <3 nyc

♬ original sound – Olivia Brand

After Brand, another woman, 30-year-old Sarah Suzuki Harvard, said she was walking alone when she was “punched in the back of my skull from a random man on the street” on March 19. NYPD pointed to Harvard as one of the seven identified cases.

Harvard said she experienced pain as well as “dizziness, headaches & nausea” after being punched while walking to see a comedy show.

She said she’d seen many similar claims on social media in the days after she was personally attacked. The posts from other women inspired Harvard to file a formal police report.

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“Since the attack, I’ve been on high alert,” Harvard wrote on social media. “Looking over my shoulder every few steps. Afraid to walk alone when the sun goes down.”

One of the accounts that inspired Harvard was that of Halley McGookin, 23, who posted a tearful video to TikTok recounting her March 25 assault. In the clip, McGookin is seen with a visible bump on her forehead.

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“You guys, I was literally just walking when a man came up and punched me in the face,” McGookin, who is an influencer under the name Halley Kate, recounted to her followers through tears. “It hurt so bad.”

McGookin’s video has been viewed more than 50.3 million times on TikTok.

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♬ original sound – halley

Then came a video from Mikayla Toninato, 27, who said she was hit in the face on March 25 while walking and texting on her cellphone.

“I’m actually in shock right now. I’m just walking home because what else do you do?” Toninato said in the video, where a bruise is visible under her right eye.

Toninato said she told her friends about the attack. They then sent her a video of another woman from New York City who also claimed to have been hit.

“I guess if you’re in New York right now and you’re walking while looking at your phone, maybe don’t do that,” she advised. “Maybe head on a swivel. I guess we’re going to be super aware of our surroundings.”


@halley i quite literally feel your pain this was so insane

♬ original sound – mikayla

Toninato told she suffered a concussion as a result of the assault.

Police cited three other instances in which women were allegedly attacked without provocation.

This includes an attack from March 23 in which a 25-year-old woman was slapped on the forehead while in New York City’s Midtown region.

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Another 36-year-old woman said she was punched in the back by a man she did not know on the Lower East Side on March 25.

The next day, Karina Dunford, 24, said she was also punched in the head while in Chelsea. Dunford, like the others, said the attack was random and unprovoked.

Three men arrested in connection to random attacks

After McGookin’s viral video was posted, NYPD arrested Skiboky Stora, 40, on an assault charge to do with the attack. A complaint against Stora, obtained by ABC News, claimed he caused McGookin “swelling, a large lump to the left side of her forehead, and substantial pain.”

During an arraignment on Thursday, Stora was ordered to be held on US$10,000 (C$13,570) bail.

A second man, Mallik Miah, 30, was also arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault for reportedly attacking Toninato, NBC News reported.

In a statement from NYPD shared last week, officials said they are aware of “a viral video circulating on social media depicting a woman who was randomly assaulted.” They did not specify which video they were referencing.

Police said the man who was arrested in connection to the assault, believed to be Stora, “is a criminal recidivist with an extensive criminal record.”

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“Your NYPD detectives were able to identify the man after he was previously arrested for similar attacks, only to be released back onto our streets,” NYPD wrote.

NBC News claimed a third man was also charged with assault last week after he was accused of punching a 57-year-old woman in the face in New York City.

Of the three men arrested, NBC said on Saturday two have yet to enter a plea and one has already been released.

The outlet reported that while overall crime is on the decline in New York City, the occurrence of misdemeanor assaults has increased more than 10 per cent since March of 2023.

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Bethenny Frankel shares a similar story

As women continue to self-report their assaults to TikTok, Frankel shared her own recounting to the social media platform.

“So many of you have wanted to punch me in the face at one point or another, and someone else did do it for you,” Frankel, 53, started.

She said she’d stopped to visit a small “deli-bakery” when she was hit in the face by a stranger.

Frankel said she recorded a video of her reaction to being punched but did not post it because she felt “embarrassed.”


♬ original sound – Bethenny Frankel

Frankel said she is “sorry” for all the women who have experienced a similar attack.

“I hope it’s more a weird trend than an actual reflection of crime because it did scare me about New York City,” she said, adding that she is now nervous to be in the urban center.

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