The Punching Incidents in New York Are Part of a Much Bigger Problem

Get the Full StoryContent warning: The following story contains mentions of sexual assault and gender-based violence.

Stories of New York women being indiscriminately punched in the face seem to be consuming TikTok. Between March 25-27, several women posted about being attacked unprovoked while walking in Lower Manhattan. A suspect would ultimately be arrested in connection with at least one of the incidents, per USA Today. As dozens went on to recount similar experiences, a conversation was sparked online about the violence women experience on a regular basis in public spaces.

As a single woman, I am constantly on guard. When out in public, I'm aware of my surroundings, checking to see if anyone around me is acting suspicious. When I'm someplace new, whether a movie theater or a trendy restaurant, I keep a mental tab of how far I am from the nearest exit. And to prepare for the worst-case scenarios, I ensure that a handful of people in my life have access to my location at all times. It's draining.

Navigating life as a woman means being in constant fight or flight mode. And if we do seek to simply just exist and go about life normally, we're perceived as being careless, negligent even. We shouldn't have to be this alert just to exist.

We shouldn't have to be this alert just to exist.

For women of color, this is amplified to a degree that is difficult for many to understand or believe for that matter. The story of the New York punching incidents didn't start to gain traction until it started happening mainly to white women: multiple Black women living in New York who detailed similar experiences dating back to 2022, but their claims did not receive the same attention and coverage.

Take, for example, how the public treated Megan Thee Stallion after Tory Lanez shot her in the foot in 2020. Some invalidated her experience by saying that she faked the story, while others mocked her as if it was her fault. Years later, people are still debating the incident, long after Lanez's guilty verdict and sentencing.

A 2021 UN Women report found that 97 percent of the women surveyed all between the ages of 18 to 24 have experienced some form of sexual harassment or violence. I, like most other women, am a part of that 97 percent.

I remember being catcalled at a young age and being told to "just keep walking and eventually they'll stop." But little did I know, it would never stop.

When I was a freshman in college, one of my close guy friends at the time sexually assaulted me while I was drunk. I was confused and in disbelief: how could someone I trust take advantage of me? It was hard not to blame myself even though I knew it wasn't my fault.

Immediately after my assault, the women in my life supported me and lifted me up, but the men continued to question me. My best friend and neighbor couldn't believe his friend did that. He tried to rationalize the situation and frame it as a misunderstanding. Another friend thought talking it out with my assaulter would make it better. It didn't. Because of my assaulter, I lost a part of myself and a few people I thought were my friends; in hindsight, the latter wasn't much of a loss.

After bearing the weight for far too long, I processed the assault in therapy and reported it to the university. It went as you might expect. Even with all the evidence, screenshots, and witness accounts, nothing happened. I did almost everything "right" in terms of reporting the incident, yet my pain was consistently met with doubt, mainly from men.

Even the way they framed questions after the fact was revealing about their subconscious processing of situations like mine. My girlfriends asked me if I was OK, how they could best support me, and overall, tried to comfort me after experiencing such trauma. My friend Ashley even reached out to my older sister, who lived nearby, to come pick me up and be an extra layer of support for me.

My guy friends were more accusatory - their questions ranging from "how much did you drink?" to "are you sure you told him to stop?" It felt like I was being interrogated and forced to relive that night instead of processing it. It hadn't even been a full 24 hours before my character and judgment were being questioned for something someone else did to me.

This should not be normal. It shouldn't take multiple women getting punched in the face, more high-profile cases of sexual misconduct, or another documentary about serial abuse for us to talk about this epidemic of gender-based violence.

We continue to find ourselves at a crossroads. Even though the rise of the #MeToo movement was a pivotal turning point, there are still far too many stories of gender-based violence, like the recent fatal stabbing of Samyia Spain outside a Brooklyn deli to the murder of Gabby Petito. Violence toward women is nothing new, but something has to change, and men need to actively listen and join in on the conversation.

We know it's not all men, but how can it be 97 percent of women?


The Adult Survivors Act Allowed More People to File Sex-Abuse Suits. Here's 1 Woman's Story.

Daria Yazmiene is a freelance writer, social media manager, and advocate for BIPOC communities. She is a proud graduate of Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.