Reducing Barriers to Reporting Public Sexual Harassment to the Police: Towards Procedural Justice for Racially Minoritised Vulnerable Young Women and Girls

Research suggests that racially minoritised young women and girls believe that there is a lack of procedural justice in the UK. This project looks at how this belief can prevent them reporting public sexual harassment (PSH) to the police.

Woman standing on seashore during daytime

Efforts are currently underway to pass a ‘Protection from Sex-Based Harassment in Public’ Bill in the UK. This raises the prospect of young women and girls needing to report PSH to the police. However, public trust in the police is falling, particularly given the convictions of former police officers Wayne Couzens and David Carrick.

This project will draw on previous research on sexual violence to understand PSH as spanning multiple behaviours, including catcalling, rape jokes, groping, flashing, assault and rape. It will also build on recent research that links gender and racial disparities in procedural justice with barriers to reporting PSH.


“Police don’t take sexual assault seriously either, not even sexual violence that happens within the police force. I mean, Sarah Everard?… I am brown, I am a Muslim, are they actually going to ever believe me? No, the police don’t stand to serve people like me. They’re against people like me”

Jasmine, 19

This project builds on the team’s recent research on racially minoritised young women and girls’ experiences of PSH (PDF). This research found that a lack of procedural justice partly explained a reluctance to report PSH to the police.

Procedural justice is “the perceived fairness of the procedures involved in decision-making and the perceived treatment one receives from the decision-maker.” Research suggests that procedural justice matters much more to youth than adults since issues of mutual respect figure prominently in young people’s interactions with adults. Yet young people, and specifically, racially minoritised young people, are often on the receiving end of dangerously prejudicial and dehumanising policing.

Young women and girls perceive structural racism as endemic within the police force. This diminishes any hope for procedural justice when reporting PSH and other forms of gender-based sexual violence.
There is a need to better understand and address how a lack of procedural justice in policing contributes to and causes vulnerability among racially minoritised girls and young women, by acting as a barrier to reporting incidents of PSH.

This collaborative research project will co-produce workshops on PSH with people who have experiences of being policed. The workshops will form part of police training, in alignment with the North Yorkshire Police Commissioner’s objectives to address gender-based violence by listening to all women and girls, including those from under-represented communities.


The project aims to enhance perceptions of procedural justice and reduce barriers to reporting PSH among racially minoritised vulnerable young women. It will do this by working together with racially minoritised female-identifying youth to co-produce evidence-based training workshops for police officers, which will then be pilot-tested.


The project will seek to answer three research questions:

  1. What is the evidence on what works in reducing barriers to reporting PSH and enhancing perceptions of procedural justice among vulnerable and racially minoritised populations?

To better understand the evidence on what works in reducing barriers to reporting public sexual harassment for vulnerable populations, the research team will conduct a rapid evidence review. This brief review will focus on barriers to reporting incidents of public sexual harassment to the police for racially minoritised girls and young women. It will look at what works to reduce those barriers and promote a sense of greater procedural justice.

2. What changes do racially minoritised young girls and women want to see in the way that police officers handle reports of PSH, and what are the practical implications of this?

To answer research question 2, the team will co-design workshop training materials together with racially minoritised young women and girls.

The team will recruit 30 participants (aged 12-21) from varied racial, ethnic and faith backgrounds. They will share the information gained from the rapid evidence review with young people and other key stakeholders. In turn, young people and stakeholders will share the extent to which this information matches their everyday lived experiences. This process is designed to empower stakeholders to shape the direction of the project and final methodology that will be used as the team works together to co-produce training materials for the police.

3. Is our new police training an effective approach to instigating changes in: a) police officers’ attitudes toward racially minoritised young girls and women who report PSH incidents; and b) police officers’ commitment to and practice of procedural justice?

To evaluate the approach and assess the effectiveness of the co-designed training materials, the team will conduct a small pilot test of the workshop materials with police officers.

The team will deliver three workshops to 30 trainees (10 trainees per workshop). They will examine changes in police officers’ attitudes, knowledge, intentions and actions as it relates to procedural justice for racially minoritised vulnerable young women and girls reporting PSH. The team will use a quantitative survey to measure anticipated changes in the outcomes listed above. Qualitative focus groups with participants and facilitators will assess the training process (including its design, delivery, materials, and participant engagement).


Lead Investigator

Dr Nadia Jessop (University of York)

Research Assistants

  • Trish Chinzara (University of York)
  • Amy Kandola (University of York)


Project partners

The project team are working with the All About Respect Community Network. The network brings together individuals and organisations committed to tackling gender-based violence and hate crime across the community (City of York and North Yorkshire). The Network has a steering group including representatives from both Universities and Further Education Colleges in York, alongside representatives from the local police, safer community teams and charities.

Contact us

We invite you to join our project mailing list or sign up as a research participant or advisory board member. If you have any questions, email