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They were hit and taken to TikTok

A series of viral videos of several young female TikTok users, who posted emotional messages about being punched on city streets, sparked concern among online fans over the topic this week.

Halley Kate McGookin, a social media influencer with over a million followers, posted Monday morning that she was sending an email on her phone while walking in Manhattan when a man with a dog approached her and punched her in the face without warning.

“You guys, I was literally walking and a man came up and punched me in the face,” Ms. McGookin said in a video she recorded after the encounter that has been viewed more than 46 million times. “Oh my God, it hurts so much I can’t even talk. Literally, I fell to the ground, and now this giant goose egg is forming.

Shana Davis-Ross, a spokeswoman for Ms. McGookin, declined multiple requests for comment on the incident.. Police officials said Wednesday they had made an arrest in an assault matching details of Ms. McGookin’s case.

Other women have recently shared similar experiences on TikTok. Mikayla Toninato, 27-year-old student at Parsons School of Design posted that she was attacked on 13th Street and Fifth Avenue. Karina Dunford, a 24-year-old model, also said she was attacked.

These random attacks come at a time of heightened concerns about crime in the city. Governor Kathy Hochul’s recent decision to deploy the National Guard and state police to monitor New York City’s subway system largely addressed these concerns, although the high-profile episodes that are the subject of widespread online coverage often have the potential to fuel a misleading impression of crime.

The police department declined to directly answer questions about whether the incidents were part of a larger trend, instead pointing to a previous statement: “The NYPD is aware of a viral video circulating on social media showing a woman who was randomly assaulted in an unprovoked attack. The individual was arrested and charged.

Ms. Toninato said in a telephone interview that she was walking home Monday around 2 p.m. when a man approached her near Union Square and punched her in the face.

“I didn’t see it coming because I was looking down, but it was a pretty empty sidewalk and there was no one around me,” she said. “Then he hit me, I screamed and turned around to see what had just happened. It was like an out of body experience. I couldn’t even believe what happened and I turned around and the man was looking at me as he walked away.

Ms. Toninato said that when she texted her friends to tell them what had just happened, they responded by sending her the video of Ms. McGookin.

On Tuesday, after being urged by her TikTok followers, Ms. Toninato went to the emergency room, where she said doctors told her she had a concussion. She also had a black eye and a chipped tooth. A medical note reviewed by The New York Times confirmed that Ms. Toninato was seen at NYU Langone on March 26.

Ms. Dunford said in a telephone interview that she was walking Tuesday on Avenue of the Americas near 23rd Street when a man approached her from behind and punched her violently in the back of the head with a closed fist. When she turned around, he was staring at her, holding out his arm, seemingly ready to attack again. She screamed and bystanders physically separated him from her before he walked away.

Mayor Eric Adams said during a news conference Tuesday that the city was troubled by “random acts of violence.”

According to NYPD statistics, felony assaults increased 3% over the previous year, and misdemeanor assaults increased 10% over the same period.

In another interview with The Reset Talk Show last week, Mr Adams said social media could make these acts appear more common than they are. “When you witness random, repeated acts of violence,” he said, “showing videos over and over again — that plays into how people feel on the subway.”

Adam Scott Wandt, associate professor and vice president for technology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said: “When a story about being punched in the head goes viral on social media and then spreads across the country , it can quickly overshadow the fact that New York City is also a relatively safe city to walk around. Incidents like this on social media can make New York City seem like a much more violent and crime-ridden city than it actually is.

“It’s also important to remember that the media likes to cover stories of violence and people are drawn to social media that talks about violence,” he added, “which increases the chances that something will become viral and be seen by many. »

As TikTok posts began to pile up this week, users flooded comment sections to express their concern, with many relaying their own similar, distressing experiences.

Ms. Toninato, who is originally from Minnesota and moved to New York in August, said the incident made her fear leaving her home.

“I never would have thought to post a TikTok about this, but when my friend sent me Halley’s video, it just made me realize that this could be a repeat offense” , she said. “I just wanted to warn others and try to prevent this from happening again.”

Ms. Dunford echoed his sentiment.

“I’m not one to do TikToks, this is like the second video I’ve ever made in my life,” she said in the interview. “My intention here is very, very clearly, for people to know that this is happening.”

Alain Delaquérière contributed to the research.



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