Implications of bias continued

This lesson provides some common implications of bias that may come up when supporting youth experiencing exploitation. This list is not exhaustive, but offers a few examples of bias for service providers to remain aware of.

  • Victim-blaming: Victim-blaming happens when we suggest that a person who experiences harm (ex. exploitation, coercion, abuse) enabled the harm to occur or could have avoided harm if they had done something differently. In reality, everyone has the right to safety, no matter where they go, who they see, how they look, or what they choose to wear. Victim-blaming is isolating, harmful, can be re-traumatizing, and can convince the person who experienced harm that the harm they experienced did not even happen.
    Victim-blaming can look like:
    • Asking questions or for details that implicate youth or their behavior:
      • “What were you wearing?”
      • “Why were you out so late?”
      • “Why were you in [that location]?”
      • “Why did you get so drunk/high?”
      • “Why did you keep seeing [person who caused harm]?”
      • “Why didn’t you [fight them off, run away, say no]?”
      • “Are you sure [the event] is what really happened?”
    • Being prescriptive or suggesting something could or should be done differently:
      • “You should have told someone.”
      • “You should have left that situation if you felt unsafe.”
      • “You shouldn’t be out alone.”
    • Due to the pervasiveness of victim-blaming in Western culture, youth may engage in victim-blaming themselves:
      • “I shouldn’t have met up with them.”
      • “I shouldn’t have worn that outfit…what did I expect?”
      • “I already said yes, it’s my fault they expected me to follow through.”
  • Slut-shaming: Slut-shaming seeks to control behaviour by shaming or judging people (especially girls and cis- and trans-women, as well as non-binary or gender-nonconforming persons) for appearing to violate expectations of sexuality. Slut-shaming creates a harmful cultural environment in which violence is justified when committed against someone who is considered to be a “slut” or overly promiscuous. As such, systemic “slut-shaming” in Canada contributes to increased rates of violence against sex workers, girls, and women, including sexualized violence. In reality, everyone has the right to embrace and engage with their sexuality as they see fit without the threat of shame or violence.
    Slut-shaming may be a response to:
    • engaging in sex work or casual/premarital sex
    • taking birth control and/or carrying safer sex supplies (condoms, lube, dental dams)
    • dressing in a revealing way
    • physical or sexualized violence, as a form of victim-blaming

      Slut-shaming can look like:
    • Saying someone was “asking for it,” when they experience sexualized violence. Sex workers who report sexualized violence are often told some variation of this by police.
    • “They shouldn’t be dressed like that if they don’t want the attention,”
    • “Wow, you’ve had how many partners?! That’s a lot…”
    • Insinuating that someone’s sexuality, sexual history, or sexual choices is a valid reason for their mistreatment
    • “Stop sleeping around! You need to love yourself more.”

  • Tone policing: Tone policing happens when someone sharing their experience of oppression or harm is asked to share in “less emotional” ways. Most frequently, it is a listener who does not experience this form of oppression policing the speaker into sharing in a more comfortable or palatable way for the listener. Tone policing restricts the speaker’s emotional expression, effectively attempting to deny/silence the speaker’s reality (ex. their experience of oppression and feelings of anger, sadness, frustration) because it does not line up with the listener’s perspective. In this way, tone-policing reinforces power dynamics by suggesting their experience of oppression is “not that bad.” Our emotional responses are deeply connected to, and important for, expressing ourselves and healing from oppression and other forms of violence, and should be upheld for that.
    • Some statements that tone police include:
      • “It would be easier to talk about this if you calmed down.”
      • “You don’t need to get emotional about it.”
      • “People would be more sympathetic if you weren’t so angry.”
      • “I can’t deal with your negative energy. Let’s talk about something else.”
      • “Wow, I can’t believe you’re letting them get to you like this!”
    • Click through Everyday Feminism’s Tone Policing comic strip for a detailed, visual explanation of tone policing:
  • Deficit thinking: Although deficit thinking is most commonly attributed to school settings, it can occur in any interpersonal dynamic and works similar to victim-blaming. Deficit thinking is when a community’s experience of oppression or inequality is considered the fault of the community itself. By extension, an individual’s traits are the source of their own challenges. Deficit thinking is rooted in classist and racist perspectives. Deficit thinking can include:
    • Labeling youth as “at-risk” without identifying the dominant structures and systemic oppression that create risk for youth
    • Having “low expectations” for a person because of their race, class, ability, accent, culture etc.
    • Believing Indigenous, Black, or racialized youth should be “saved” by white families, schools, or systems (ex. child welfare scoops, residential schools)
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