TikToker Sparks Controversy After Claiming Man Groped Her While Lifting Weights at Gym

Last week, a woman on TikTok shared that she was sexually harassed while lifting weights at the gym—and she posted the video evidence to prove it. In response to her widely-viewed viral video, however, came claims that she "staged" the incident, leading to a wider conversation on the app about believing the claims of sexual assault and harassment victims.

Fern, as she's known on the app, posted the clip of her lifting weights alongside the text: "This dumba** touches my booty, he didn't know that I'm filming." Sure enough, a man soon walks toward Fern and, seeming to not notice the camera, touches her inappropriately. In the caption, Fern adds, "please idk what to do, he always doing this," suggesting that this was not an isolated incident.


caught in 4k📷 please idk what to do, he always doing this :/ #fyp #gym #rude #gymstaff

♬ original sound - Fern🦋 - Fern🦋

The clip has been viewed 3.6 million times and counting, and tens of thousands of commenters are weighing in on the situation. While countless offered Fern their support, many others doubted her claim, saying the video is "obviously staged."

To those messages, Fern posted a number of follow-up videos, debunking and explaining aspects of the clip her doubters took issue with. Visibly distressed and in tears, Fern defended her footage as legitimate.

In the following days, Fern also told her viewers she contacted the gym's management about the incident. According to her, the gym's initial response was lackluster: they reportedly asked her why she "didn't call him out the first time he did that." She added, "It's like they are blaming me."

Eventually, it appears the gym's management did investigate the incident and ruled in Fern's favor. She posted screenshots of messages, ostensibly from her gym, saying the alleged offender "who was working as Gym instructor...has been terminated" because he "violated the rules of the Management."

Commenters have flooded these videos with supportive messages.

"Some men are just trash, and the ones that try to defend the trash are just worried about being exposed themselves. Stay strong!!!" reads one example.

"So proud of you for sharing your truth," said another TikTok user. "Ignore the haters. You've got an entire planet of supporters out here."

However, others started commenting, especially on her most recent video, that Fern had been "exposed"—a claim that appears to stem from a comment posted on one of her videos by Diane Sarmiento. "VISIT MY PROFILE to watch the WHOLE VIDEO she is brainwashing everyone," reads Sarmiento's comment.

On Sarmiento's page, she posted what appears to be CCTV footage from the exact moment when Fern was inappropriately touched. After finishing lifting, Fern sits on a piece of gym equipment as the alleged perpetrator walks by. As he passes, they exchange a fistbump.


Content or not? @fernvillaceran watch til the end may pa-fist bump pa sa dulo! Tapos a-arte arte kasi dumami yung views at comment? #fameseeker

♬ original sound - Fern🦋 - Fern🦋

Needless to say, a fistbump is hardly enough evidence to "prove" the incident was staged—especially since Fern explained in a prior video that the man in question was indeed her friend, thus complicating the situation. However, many commenters are vehement in their belief Fern somehow faked the incident.

Regardless, Fern is resisting the victim-blaming that is all-too-common whenever someone reports incidents of sexual harassment and assault. As she says in one video, her message is here to stay: "I'm not gonna delete this, ever."

TikTok App Icon
TikTok user @fernvillaceran went viral after sharing her experience being sexually harassed while at the gym. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images