Multiple Women in NYC Report Getting “Punched in the Face,” Warning Others to Not Look At Their Phones While Walking

By: Alyssa Miller | Published: Mar 27, 2024

On a Tuesday morning in March, comedian Sarah Suzuki Harvard was taking an evening walk home down Delancey Street in lower Manhattan. Without warning, someone punched Harvard in the back of the head.

When Havard turned to confront her attacker, the man was running away. Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated attack. It’s been happening to women all over New York City.

In New York City, Women Are Experiencing “Punches to the Face"

Women are taking to TikTok to urge women to stay aware of their surroundings after several people reported similar stories of an unidentified man punching them in the face.

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A woman with blonde hair showing a bruise on her face

Source: Jill Burke/TikTok

According to the Independent, multiple attacks have happened within days and miles of each other. Social media influencer Halley Kate went viral on TikTok after posting a video of her swollen face. While walking in New York City, she claimed someone punched her in the face.

Halley Kate Shares Her Story

“You guys, I was literally just walking and a man came up and punched me in the face,” Kate said. In the video, Kate was crying and a welt began forming on the side of her forehead.

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A street view of New York City with cars parked on the side of the street

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“Oh my god, it hurts so bad. I can’t even talk. Literally, I fell to the ground and now this giant goose egg is forming,” she said in the video.

Halley Kate Was Looking at Her Phone

In a follow-up video, Kate clarified what had happened after her attack on March 25. Kate explained that she was “walking on the sidewalk,” looking down at her phone when the unidentified man assaulted her.

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A woman with short blonde hair and a stripped shirt on typing on her smartphone near a window

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“This man—I don’t know if he punched me or if he elbowed me; I literally passed out so I don’t really remember—but I think he just was really mad that my head was down,” Kate said.

Halley Kate Filled a Police Report After Running Away

Kate notes that the man was walking his dog when the assault happened. After the man hit her, Kate reports that she fell to the ground and “blacked out for a second.”

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Source: Tomas Ryant/Pexels

Once she was back on her feet, the man was “screaming at me.” Kate ran away and filed a police report, which “matched” another police report that detailed a similar incident.

Women’s Stories Go Viral

Since Harvard saw the TikTok videos of girls talking about their similar stories, Harvard reported the attack to the police.

Two women walking down the sidewalk in Times Square in New York City

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“My sister was sending me these TikTok videos of these girls talking about how they’re getting punched in the face,” Harvard told the Independent. “My friend was like: ‘Don’t you feel a little bit better now that it’s not an isolated incident?’ No, I’m getting more scared now because it’s a repeated occurrence that could get escalated, that could happen to me again.”

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Halley Kate Says to Stay Alert and Look Up

While influencers like Kate advise women to “stay safe out there,” she also suggests “maybe [not] look at your phone when you’re walking on the street. Learn from my lesson.”

A woman walking on a sidewalk in the day

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However, the warning was not enough to prepare Mikayla Toninato, a student at Parsons School of Design. After leaving class, Toninato posted a video to TikTok showing herself being “punched in the face.”

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Someone Punches Another Woman Outside of Her 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,” Toninato said in the video.

A woman with an afro typing on her smartphone inside of a high rise building

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“I don’t know if this is like a thing that’s going around, but I guess if you’re in New York right now and you’re walking while looking at your phone, maybe don’t do that,” Toninato said. “I guess we’re going to be super aware of our surroundings.”

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Someone Punches Another Woman in Lower Manhattan

TikTok user Olivia Brand also shared a video detailing that she was “punched by some man” on the sidewalk. In her March 17 video, Brand said that the man shouted, “Sorry!” before he punched her.

A Couple Enjoying the View of the New York City Skyline

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Brand explained in her follow-up video that the assault happened around the Nolita and Soho neighborhoods of Manhattan. The man did not have a dog with him at the time.

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Olivia Brand Describes the Attacker

After being punched in the face, Brand filed a police report and went to urgent care. She also described the man in her comments section, writing, “It was a black man, wearing a light gray hoodie, probably no taller than 5’10. Short-ish hair. I don’t remember much else about his face.”

People Across an Intersection in Time Square in New York City

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The app’s videos, showing women recounting being punched in the face, are sparking widespread fear as the situation in New York City unfolds.

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Harvard Describes the Man

Harvard described the assailant to the Independent, identifying him “as a black male around six feet tall with dreadlocks or twists that ended right above his shoulders.”

A street view of a person walking down a sidewalk into the sunset

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“This all seems to me that he is targeting unassuming women,” Harvard wrote on X after noticing most of these women who were assaulted seemed to have been looking down at their phones.

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There Are No Answers Yet, So Stay Safe! 

These recent attacks on women in New York City—most noticeably in Lower Manhattan—have encouraged women to share their stories on social media, warning women to stay alert and look up while walking.

Young Woman in a Beige Coat and Headphones Climbing the Stairs with a Cup of Coffee and a Smartphone in Her Hands

Source: Ahmed/Pexels

“I am glad I posted that. It just seems a lot of people are having to be more cautious now. If it prevents one person from getting attacked, that’s the best thing,” Harvard said.

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