Module 8: Stereotypes and unconscious bias

1. Definitions
2. Origin of biases
3. Manifestation of biases
4. Biases in the context of domestic violence and their consequences
5. Anti-biases strategies
6. Five steps to counter personal biases



Welcome to Module 8 on “Stereotypes and unconscious bias”. In this module, you will explore the impact of stereotypes and unconscious bias on our perceptions and behaviours. You will gain a better understanding why stereotypes and unconscious biases play a significant role within the context of domestic violence. Assessing and addressing these biases is crucial, as biases can influence how we perceive and interpret situations and thus lead to unfair judgments and misconceptions about victims and perpetrators of domestic violence, and inadvertently perpetuating victim-blaming or minimising the severity of abuse. Module 8 aims to provide you with the knowledge and tools needed to challenge stereotypes, and confront unconscious biases.

Learning objectives

+ Understand the origin and factors that contribute to the development of unconscious biases and stereotypes
+ Define key terms related to unconscious bias, stereotypes, and prejudices
+ Explore the factors that contribute to the development of unconscious biases
+ Identify and categorise different types of biases and their impact on decision-making and behaviour
+ Recognise and analyse instances of unconscious bias in everyday situations, and, particularly in the context of domestic violence, the influence of unconscious non-verbal behaviour patterns on communication
+ Engage in self-reflection to identify personal unconscious behaviours and develop strategies for addressing delicate situations in the context of domestic violence
+ Apply knowledge to real-life scenarios through case studies to develop concrete alternatives for action
+ Ability to establish the connection between unconscious thinking patterns and the concepts of diversity and inclusion

Take time to reflect on the image.

  1. What is your initial reaction to this image?
  2. Are there any traditional gender roles that come to your mind when you see this image? If so, which ones?
  3. How does this image challenge or reinforce traditional gender roles?
  4. What assumptions might arise for you when seeing a man engaging in an activity traditionally associated with women?

1. Definitions

As it is important to foster self-awareness, recognise harmful attitudes and behaviours, and highlight the broader societal implications of these phenomena, the definitions of bias, stereotypes, prejudices, and discrimination are presented in this section.1


Distorted cognitive perceptions leading to incorrect judgments and decision-making, often occurring unconsciously

Explanation: Our brain sometimes comes to false assessments when judging things or making decisions without us even realising it.


Generalised judgments categorising individuals based on incomplete knowledge about social groups others believe they belong to, leading to certain expectations about their behaviour and abilities

Explanation: People sometimes think that everyone in a certain group acts or looks the same, even though they do not know everyone in that group very well.


Emotionally charged evaluations of individuals from specific social groups, often stemming from the presence of stereotypes

Explanation: Sometimes, people have strong feelings about certain groups of people, thinking they are better or worse based on what they heard or believe.


Behavioural response to stereotypical evaluations, which can have negative or positive effects and may be referred to as privileges in the context of equal opportunities

Explanation: When people treat others differently because they think they know something about them just by looking at them, it can make them feel good or bad. In a fair world, everyone should have the same opportunities.

Under the section “Biases in the context of domestic violence and their consequences”, examples of the defined concepts in the context of domestic violence are presented.

2. Origin of biases

Understanding the origin of biases allows us to explore the root causes and underlying mechanisms that contribute to the formation and perpetuation of biases. Everyone has biases, regardless of gender, education, or social status. They can help our brains to make quick decisions, but can also lead to discrimination and making us bad decisions.2

The following video explains this well and what role our brains plays in it.

Our individual biases are influenced by our systems of thinking and our experiences.

1. Systems of thinking

  • Two systems of thinking: System 1 (unconscious) and System 2 (conscious)
  • System 1: enables us to act quickly based on stored experiences

Example: When driving, we react immediately to a child running into the road.

  • System 2: slower and requires conscious effort.

Examples: When paying attention to a conversation or searching for someone in a crowd.

2. Experiences

  • Experiences shape our unconscious thought processes.
  • Sometimes these processes can be faulty or go against our conscious beliefs (= unconscious biases).

Example: We tend to prefer people from our own culture because of our past experiences.

Take home points

  • Unconscious biases can occur due to information overload, low informative value, need for quick decisions, and diversity of information.
  • They are like shortcuts that our brains use, especially when we are feeling stressed or scared.
  • Sometimes these shortcuts can cause unfair treatment or discrimination, thus it is important to understand one’s own unconscious biases.
  • To address unconscious biases, we should question our perceptions and re-evaluate our experiences.

“Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.”

3. Manifestation of biases

Examples of biases can help you recognise the diverse ways in which biases manifest in real-world situations to better understand their impact.3

Open this text box to find some examples of biases.
Ableism, DisableismAbleism refers to judging people based on their abilities.
Disableism is the discrimination against people seen as impaired.
Mini-Me-Effect, Similarity-Attraction EffectPeople are attracted to others who are similar to them in appearance and personality traits.
We tend to like people who are like us in many ways.
(Fundamental) Attribution ErrorWe often think a person’s behaviour is because of their personality, even though it may be due to the situation they are in.
Authority BiasWe tend to believe and follow the opinions of authority figures, even though their opinions may not be correct.
Confirmation BiasWe tend to look for information that supports our existing beliefs and ignore information that contradicts them.
Blind Spot BiasWe often think we are unbiased and unaffected by biases, even though we are influenced by them just like everyone else.
Code-SwitchingChanging behaviour depending on the situation or who we are interacting with.
Cross-Race EffectPeople may have difficulty recognising and distinguishing faces of individuals from a different ethnic group than their own. This is linked to a tendency to more easily identify/recognise faces of people belonging to one’s own racial group.
Distance BiasWe tend to place more importance on things that are closer to us in space or time.
Fading-Affect BiasNegative memories tend to fade faster than positive memories, which can sometimes lead to biased behaviour.
Framing EffectDifferent ways of presenting information can influence how people respond, even if the content is the same.
Gender BiasBiased perceptions and stereotypes based on gender can lead to unfair treatment or misinterpretation of situations.
Illusory CorrelationStereotypes often lead to attributing certain characteristics to certain groups, even if they are not accurate or supported by evidence.
Judicial BiasBiases that can affect judges’ decision-making, including cognitive biases and external influences.
AI BiasBiases that can occur in artificial intelligence systems due to skewed or incorrect data, leading to unequal treatment or discrimination.
Contact EffectMore contact with different people can help reduce prejudice and hostility between groups.
Naïve Realism (Direct Realism)Believing that our own perception of reality is objective and unbiased, and assuming others should reach the same conclusions if they have the same information.
Negativity BiasNegative experiences or thoughts have a stronger impact on us than neutral or positive ones.
Primacy EffectThe first information we receive often has a strong influence on our judgments and memories.
Racial BiasStereotypes and biases based on race can influence judgment and behaviour, even if they are unconscious.
Social DesirabilityPeople may give answers they think others want to hear, instead of expressing their true beliefs, to avoid social disapproval.
Status Quo BiasA tendency to prefer the current situation over making changes, especially when there are limited alternatives and knowledge about them.
StereotypesGeneralised beliefs about certain groups of people based on their gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, or education.

4. Biases in the context of domestic violence and their consequences

This section helps you to get a better understanding about the role of biases in the context of domestic violence and to gain insight into their profound influence on perceptions, attitudes, and responses. It is important to recognise their impact on victim-blaming and also when addressing inadequate support systems and dismantling systemic barriers to facilitate effective intervention and prevention measures.

Gender norms and gender role expectations

Gender norms refer to the standards that are placed upon individuals in a society to present, act, and express themselves based upon their assigned sex at birth.

Gender role expectations refer to the societal norms that dictate to individuals what constitutes “manhood” and “womanhood.”4

Find more information on gender in Module 1.

Gender roles can also have a negative impact on men; this can be seen, for example, in the phenomenon of toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity refers to the harmful social norms that are aimed at men and boys, promoting the idea that masculinity or expressing masculinity is the most important part of being a male. An example of toxic masculinity is the commonly used phrase “boys don’t cry” that teaches boys that they should not express emotion, and, if they do, they lose their masculinity.5

Task for reflection

How are the men in the video about masculinity in Disney films portrayed? What negative consequences can such a representation of masculinity have for boys?

Tony Porter provides in a TED talk an example of how societal ideas about masculinity contribute to the acceptance of violence against women.

Task for reflection

How can society’s ideas about masculinity contribute to an acceptance of violence against women?

Men as victims of domestic violence

Gender role expectations have led to a “feminisation of victimisation” with only women being perceived as victims of domestic violence. Women are seen as “weak and reliable” while men are always seen as the perpetrators. This leads to overlooking and denial that men can also be victims of domestic violence. Due to the culturalised societal views of manhood male victims of domestic violence report violence even less often than women. Hence, their abuse can escalate and lead to life-threatening incidents. The following podcast about “Paul’s story” gives the male victim Paul a voice.

Tasks for reflection
1. What are the barriers that men face when reporting the violence they are experiencing in a relationship?
2. What are the barriers culturalised conceptions of masculinities can create for male victims of domestic violence seeking help from agencies, the legal sector, and health sector?
3. How can culturalised conceptions of masculinities affect help seeking behaviour in male victims of domestic violence?
4. How can men’s own gender biases contribute to their view/reflection on their own experience with domestic violence?

Objectification of women in the media

Objectification of women and sexualisation of violence occurs in advertisements, music videos, video games, movies, pornography, and in other contexts (e.g., sexist language, catcalling). Objectification makes it harder to empathise with women who have experienced abuse or sexual violence.6


Are you aware of recent examples of this phenomenon in the media? If not, take 10 minutes to do some research.

Example: Robin Thicke – Blurred Lines
If you do not see the video here, please use another browser or click here:

Everybody get up

Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey (Uh)
Hey, hey, hey (Ha-ha!) (Woo!)
Tune me up

If you can’t hear what I’m trying to say (Hey girl, come here!)
If you can’t read from the same page (Hey)
Maybe I’m going deaf (Hey, hey, hey)
Maybe I’m going blind (Hey, hey, hey)
Maybe I’m out of my mind, mind (Hey, hey, hey)

Okay, now he was close
Tried to domesticate you
But you’re an animal
Baby, it’s in your nature (Meow)
Just let me liberate you (Hey, hey, hey)
You don’t need no takers (Hey, hey, hey)
That man is not your maker (Hey, hey, hey)
And that’s why I’m gon’ take a good girl (Everybody get up)

I know you want it (Hey)
I know you want it
I know you want it
You’re a good girl (Hey, hey)
Can’t let it get past me (Oh yeah)
You’re far from plastic (Alright)
Talkin’ ’bout getting blasted
I hate these blurred lines
I know you want it (Hey)
I know you want it (Oh-oh-oh-oh, yeah-yeah)
I know you want it
But you’re a good girl (Ah, hey)
The way you grab me
Must wanna get nasty (Ah, hey, hey)
Go ahead, get at me (Everybody get up) (Come on!)

What do they make dreams for
When you got them jeans on? (Why?)
What do we need steam for?
You the hottest bitch in this place
I feel so lucky (Hey, hey, hey)
You wanna hug me (Hey, hey, hey)
What rhymes with hug me? (Hey, hey, hey)
Hey! (Everybody get up)

Okay, now he was close
Tried to domesticate you
But you’re an animal
Baby, it’s in your nature (Uh-huh)
Just let me liberate you (Hey, hey, hey) (Uh-huh)
You don’t need no takers (Hey, hey, hey) (Uh-huh)
That man is not your maker (Hey, hey, hey) (Uh-huh)
And that’s why I’m gon’ take a good girl (Everybody get up)

I know you want it
I know you want it (Hey)
I know you want it
You’re a good girl
Can’t let it get past me (Hey)
You’re far from plastic (Oh)
Talkin’ ’bout getting blasted (Everybody get up)
I hate these blurred lines (Hate them lines)
I know you want it (I hate them lines)
I know you want it (I hate them lines)
I know you want it
But you’re a good girl (Good girl)
The way you grab me (Hustle Gang, homie)
Must wanna get nasty (Let go) (I say Rob)
Go ahead, get at me (Let me holla at ’em real quick)

One thing I ask of you
Let me be the one you back that ass up to (Come on!)
Go from Malibu to Paris, boo (Yeah)
Had a bitch, but she ain’t bad as you (Uh-uh, ayy)
So, hit me up when you pass through (Oh)
I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two
Swag on ’em even when you dress casual
I mean, it’s almost unbearable (Hey, hey, hey!) (Everybody get up)
In a hundred years not dare would I
Pull a Pharcyde, let you pass me by
Nothin’ like your last guy, he too square for you
He don’t smack that ass and pull your hair like that (You like it)
So I’m just watchin’ and waitin’
For you to salute the true big pimpin’
Not many women can refuse this pimpin’
I’m a nice guy, but don’t get it confused, get pimpin’ (Everybody get up)

Shake your rump
Get down, get up
Do it like it hurt, like it hurt
What, you don’t like work?
Hey! (Everybody get up)

Baby, can you breathe?
I got this from Jamaica
It always works for me
Dakota to Decatur (Uh-huh)
No more pretending (Hey, hey, hey) (Uh-huh)
‘Cause now you’re winning (Hey, hey, hey) (Uh-huh)
Here’s our beginning (Hey, hey, hey) (Uh-huh)
I always wanted

You’re a good girl (Everybody get up)
I know you want it (Hey)
I know you want it
I know you want it
You’re a good girl
Can’t let it get past me (Oh yeah)
You’re far from plastic (Alright)
Talkin’ ’bout getting blasted
I hate these blurred lines (Everybody get up)
I know you want it (Hey)
I know you want it (Oh-oh-oh-oh, yeah-yeah)
I know you want it
But you’re a good girl (Ah, hey)
The way you grab me
Must wanna get nasty (Ah, hey, hey)
Go ahead, get at me

Everybody get up
Everybody get up
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey

Task for reflection

Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines has been called a “rape anthem”. Why do you think this song was called that? What message does this song send?

Celebrity cases

Chris Brown

In 2009, Chris Brown beat Rihanna and pictures surfaced of her bloodied face. After this information became public, society did not focus on Chris Brown’s actions, but instead blamed Rihanna.

Here is an account of what really happened, taken from Chris Brown’s affidavit.

Even after the facts of the case were made public, the victim-blaming went on. People continued to victim-blame her by focusing on “why she went back” instead of asking “why did Chris Brown do this?” or “why does our society continue to accept domestic violence?”

Task for reflection

Why do you think Rihanna stayed in the relationship?

As you read the report, did you notice any factors that would suggest that Rihanna was particularly at high risk?

See Module 5 for more information on risk assessment.

Harvey Weinstein

Harvey Weinstein’s abuse and assault of women led to an increased focus on the issue of sexual violence due to his high-profile position as a Hollywood film producer and the number of victims who have spoken out against him.

In late 2017, over 100 women reported about Weinstein’s assaults on them. Weinstein raped them, appeared naked in front of them, forced them to massage him, offered them advancement in their careers in exchange for sexual favours and much more. He was removed from his company and many international film organisations, and subsequently charged with rape, criminal sex acts, sexual abuse, and sexual misconduct, leading to his arrest. Weinstein’s initial response to the allegations against him was a letter in which he claimed that being born in the 60s was the reason of his actions.

The actions of Harvey Weinstein, and the flood of reporting as a result, reignited an international social media campaign, #MeToo, started by Tarana Burke. This movement was a call of awareness against those crimes in which people shared their stories of men sexually assaulting or harassing them.

Thus far, the #MeToo movement has resulted in an unprecedented amount of media attention and political discourse, but it has also put pressure on victims and been met with backlash.

Task for reflection

Are you familiar with the #MeToo movement? Can you think of other similar movements? What consequences do you think the #MeToo movement has had on victims, both positive and negative?

Donald Trump

Donald Trump was recorded rudely objectifying women and bragging that he gets away with sexual harassment and assault due to his celebrity status.

Warning: This text box contains language that some may find offensive

In the recording he says, “I did try and f*ck her. She was married. … I moved on her like a b*tch. But I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look. … Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab ’em by the p*ssy. You can do anything.”

Task for reflection

Trump labelled the recorded conversation as “locker room talk”. What are the dangers of such a justification?

Representation of LGBTIQ+ in the media

Historically, media has largely ignored the existence of LGBTIQ+, and the majority of content that featured the experiences of LGBTIQ+ were full of outdated stereotypes, and painted them either as victims or as mentally ill contributing to the discrimination directed towards them.7

The movie “Disclosure: Trans Lives On Screen” showcases the contributions of the trans community to media and the history of transgender representation in cinema and television, while also analysing the impact of these depictions on the wellbeing of transgender people in society.

Task for reflection

What consequences can a lack of or incorrect representativeness have on the perception of cases of domestic violence in LGBTIQ+ relationships? How can diverse media representativeness help to break down stereotypes?


Victim-blaming refers to the tendency to hold victims of domestic violence partially or entirely responsible for the abuse they endure, instead of placing accountability on the perpetrator. This harmful behaviour stems from societal attitudes and misconceptions that unfairly place the burden of responsibility on the victim, often implying that they somehow provoked or deserved the violence inflicted upon them. Victim-blaming perpetuates a culture of silence, trivialises the experiences of victims, and can discourage them from seeking help.8


  • “The victim provoked him.”
  • “They both have problems.”
  • “The victim shouldn’t have married him.”
  • “The victim was drunk.”

The linguist and feminist author Julia Penelope used these examples to illustrate how, depending on the language used, victims are either blamed or avoided being blamed.

John beat Mary.

This sentence is written in active voice. It is clear who is committing the violence.

Mary was beaten by John.

The sentence has been changed to passive voice, so Mary comes first.

Mary was beaten.

Notice that John is removed from the sentence completely. Our attention is completely focused on Mary.

Mary is a battered woman.

Being a battered woman is now part of Mary’s identity. John is not a part of the statement, and he will not be held accountable for his choice to abuse.

The focus has shifted entirely to Mary and is no longer on John, encouraging to focus on the victim instead of the perpetrator’s actions.

See Module 3 for information on how to avoid victim-blaming in the media.

Exercise: Victim-blaming in cases of rape

The following exercise is intended to highlight the frequent victim-blaming that occurs in cases of rape. See also the definition “Judicial Bias” under Manifestation of biases. Imagine if the types of questions that are normally asked of rape victims were asked of a robbery victim. The following text is intended to illustrate how such an interview would then proceed.

“Mr. Smith, you were held up at gunpoint on the corner of First and Main?” 

“Did you struggle with the robber?” 

“Why not?” 
“He was armed.”

“Then you made a conscious decision to comply with his demands rather than resist?” 

“Did you scream? Cry out?” 
“No, I was afraid.”

“I see. Have you ever been held up before?” 

“Have you ever GIVEN money away?” 
“Yes, of course.”

“And you did so willingly?” 
“What are you getting at?”

“Well, let’s put it like this, Mr. Smith. You’ve given money away in the past. In fact, you have quite a reputation for philanthropy. How can we be sure that you weren’t CONTRIVING to have your money taken from you by force?” 
“Listen, if I wanted –”

“Never mind. What time did this holdup take place, Mr. Smith?” 
“About 11:00 P.M.”

“You were out on the street at 11:00 P.M.? Doing what?” 
“Just walking.”

“Just walking? You know that it’s dangerous being out on the street that late at night. Weren’t you aware that you could have been held up?” 
“I hadn’t thought about it.”

“What were you wearing at the time, Mr. Smith?” 
“Let’s see…a suit. Yes, a suit.”

“An EXPENSIVE suit?” 
“Well yes. I’m a successful lawyer, you know.”

“In other words, Mr. Smith, you were walking around the streets late at night in a suit that practically advertised the fact that you might be good target for some easy money, isn’t that so? I mean, if we didn’t know better, Mr. Smith, we might even think that you were asking for this to happen, mightn’t we?”

From “The Legal Bias Against Rape Victims (The Rape of Mr. Smith).” Connie K. Borkenhagen, American Bar Association Journal. April, 1975

5. Anti-biases strategies

The following strategies aim to challenge and overcome biases, stereotypes, and prejudices that perpetuate harmful dynamics and hinder addressing domestic violence.

1. Counterstereotype imaging = thinking away stereotypes:

  • Sometimes people have ideas about how certain groups of people are supposed to be.
  • When we think about people who are different from those stereotypes, it can make us less biased.9

The following video shows that “we live in a time where we quickly put people in boxes, but maybe we have more in common than what we think”.

Task for reflection

1. What is the main message of the video?
2. How and on the basis of which characteristics do you divide people into groups? What characteristics do you ascribe to them? Which discourses determine these “classifications”, where do your prejudices come from (circle of friends, media, politics)?
3. What do these considerations mean for diversity and inclusion in our society?

Have a look behind the following examples.

Example I: What comes to mind when you see a woman firefighter or a female engineer? Is this something unexpected for you?

Look beyond the figures and what is hidden behind:

  • 35% of Europeans believe that men are more ambitious than women.
  • 36% – that is how much less women overall earn on average compared with than men.
  • 20% of graduates in information and communications technology (ICT) are women.

Example II: What comes to mind when you see a working father doing or supervising caring duties of his children? Is that something unusual for you?

Look beyond the figures and what is hidden behind:

  • 44% of Europeans think that the most important role of a woman is to take care of her home and her family.
  • 82% of persons those working part-time for care reasons are women.
  • 21% of men spent more than 5 hours a day caring for their children, compared to 40% of women.
Creator: Philippe BUISSIN | Copyright: © European Union 2021 – Source: EP

Example III: What comes to mind when you see a female president decorating a high-ranking military woman? What comes to mind when you see a black woman as Member of the European Parliament? Is this something surprising for you?

Look beyond the figures and what is hidden behind:

  • 69% of Europeans think women are more likely than men to make decisions based on their emotions.
  • 32% of members of national parliaments across the EU are women.
  • 5% of elected members of the European Parliament (2019-2025) belong to racial or ethnic minorities.
  • 8% of CEOs in large listed companies in the EU are women.

Task for further reflection

Could you think of your own example of counterstereotype imaging? What do you see when you look behind the figures illustrating your example?

2. Individuation = focusing on the uniqueness of each person:

  • We should not judge someone based on our first impressions or what we think about their group to which they seem to belong.
  • It is important to take our time and get to know the person as an individual.
  • We can challenge our stereotypes by learning more about the person and seeing their unique qualities.10

The following three videos show how the topic of diversity is successfully addressed in advertising campaigns.

In 2019, Starbucks won an award for diversity in advertising. It is showing the life of Jemma, who prefers to be called James.
“We’re The Superhumans” was part of a campaign of the 2016 Paralympic Games.
Dove has created campaigns focused on real people – people of colour, the LGBTIQ+ community and people of all ages and body sizes. Its “Real Beauty” campaign brought the brand down to the level of consumers, not to the level of models or people of a so-called “perfect” size. In honour of the 20th anniversary of the campaign for “Real Beauty”, Dove is renewing its campaign with a commitment to never use AI to create or distort women’s images.

Tasks for reflection

1. What are the main message of these videos? What do they have in common?
2. How do they relate to the strategy of individuation?
3. What do these considerations mean for diversity and inclusion in our society?

Case study: Victim of domestic violence with drug addiction

Anna is a 28-year-old woman who has been in a violent relationship with her partner, Mark, for several years. Along with the physical and emotional abuse, Anna also struggles with drug addiction. She is addicted to cocaine and regularly uses it as a coping mechanism to deal with the traumatic experiences in her relationship. Anna has made several unsuccessful attempts to break free from Mark and overcome her addiction.

Tasks for reflection

1. How might stereotypes and biases influence society’s understanding of victims of domestic violence with drug addiction?
2. What additional challenges might women like Anna face due to the combination of domestic violence and drug addiction?
3. How could the concept of individuation help shift the perception and support available for victims of domestic violence with drug addiction?

Case study: Elderly victim of domestic violence

Robert is an 80-year-old man who has been living with his adult son, Michael, for the past few years. Unfortunately, their living situation has turned into one of domestic violence. Michael verbally and physically abuses Robert, often berating him and beating him. Robert, due to his old age and declining health, feels helpless and trapped in the situation. He does not know how to find help or escape from the violence due to his physical limitations and dependence on his son.

Tasks for reflection

1. How might stereotypes and biases influence society’s perception of elderly victims of domestic violence?
2. What additional challenges might victims like Robert face in terms of seeking help and escaping domestic violence due to their old age?
3. How could the concept of individuation help raise awareness and provide tailored support for elderly victims of domestic violence?

3. Contact theory = positive contact helps reduce stereotypes:

  • When we have positive experiences with people from different groups, it can make us less likely to believe stereotypes.11

Some victim groups are more at risk at others to face stereotypes and unconscious biases, such as men as victims, disabled victims, victims in a LGBTIQ+ relationship, victims with a low or high socioeconomic background and immigrant victims. The following five case studies illustrate this.

Case study: Male victim of domestic violence

John is a 35-year-old man who has been in a long-term relationship with his partner, Sarah. Over the past few months, their relationship has deteriorated significantly. Sarah has been displaying increasingly aggressive and violent behaviour towards John. She yells at him, verbally abuses him, and physically assaults him by hitting and kicking him. John feels helpless and is too ashamed to tell his friends or the police because he fears that no one will believe him and that he will not be taken seriously or may be seen as weak.

Tasks for reflection

1. What stereotypes and biases can be seen in this case study? Which own biases might influence John’s perceptions?
2. What challenges might male victims of domestic violence face in terms of stigma and societal perception?
3. How could the contact theory help change the perception of male victims of domestic violence and promote support?

Case study: Disabled victim of domestic violence

Emily is a 40-year-old woman with a physical disability who is in a long-term marriage with her husband, David. Over the past few years, their relationship has become increasingly violent. David abuses Emily both verbally and physically. He insults her because of her disability and exploits her dependency on him to exert control and manipulation. Emily feels trapped in her helplessness, as her disability poses additional barriers for seeking help and escaping the abusive relationship.

Tasks for reflection

1. How might stereotypes and biases influence the perception and support available for disabled victims of domestic violence?
2. What specific challenges might women like Emily experience in terms of domestic violence due to their disability?
3. How could the contact theory help raise awareness of the needs and support available for disabled victims of domestic violence, while acknowledging their unique experiences?

Case study: Domestic violence in a LGBTIQ+ relationship

Lisa and Emma are a same-sex couple in their late 30s who have been dating for a few months. Recently, Lisa, who identifies as a lesbian, has started displaying abusive behaviour towards Emma, who identifies as bisexual. Lisa verbally insults and belittles Emma, using derogatory language related to her bisexuality. Emma feels trapped and afraid to talk to someone about it, as she worries about potential stigma and discrimination from both the LGBTIQ+ community and the society. She does not want to leave Lisa, because she loves her.

Tasks for reflection

1. How can stereotypes and biases impact the understanding and support available for victims of domestic violence within the LGBTIQ+ community?
2. What additional challenges might victims like Emma face in terms of seeking help and breaking free from domestic violence within a same-sex relationship?
3. How could the contact theory contribute to increasing awareness, fostering inclusivity, and providing tailored support for victims from the LGBTIQ+ community experiencing domestic violence?

Case study: High-class victim of domestic violence

Isabella is a 35-year-old woman who lives in an upscale neighborhood. She has been married to her husband, Charles, for the past 10 years. Charles, a successful businessman, regularly hits her and tells her to cover the spots with her clothes. Isabella is afraid that seeking help might lead to public scrutiny and damage her reputation and social standing.

Tasks for reflection

1. How might stereotypes and biases about the socioeconomic background impact the perception of domestic violence?
2. What additional challenges might victims like Isabella face in terms of seeking help and breaking free from domestic violence due to their socioeconomic status?
3. How could an understanding of power dynamics, including economic control, contribute to improving support systems for victims like Isabella in high-class settings?

Case study: Immigrant victim of domestic violence

Amina is a 30-year-old woman who immigrated to a new country from a conservative, patriarchal society. She faces numerous challenges in adapting to her new life and culture. Amina’s husband, Farid, uses her immigrant status and limited language skills as tools for manipulation and control, exploiting her fear of deportation and isolation from her family and community, all of which make her hesitant to reach out for help.

Tasks for reflection

1. How might cultural stereotypes and biases influence the perception and support available for immigrant women like Amina who experience domestic violence?
2. What additional challenges might Amina face due to her migration background in terms of domestic violence and seeking help?
3. How could cultural sensitivity and awareness play a role in providing support to immigrant victims of domestic violence while respecting their unique cultural experiences?

4. Perspective taking = putting yourself in the other person’s shoes:

  • It is important to try to understand how someone else might feel or think, and we should imagine how we would feel if we were in their situation.12


What do I see? What do I read or hear?

A woman with a head veil enters the office.

What do I think? How do I classify?

The woman is a Muslim.

What do I feel? What emotion does the situation trigger in me? How do I judge and decide?

The woman is self-confident. / I feel sorry for the woman. / etc.

Role plays are a good way to understand the impact of stereotypes and unconscious bias in the context of domestic violence.

Suggestions for role plays can be found under training materials for workshops.

6. Five steps to counter personal biases

Encountering personal biases in the context of domestic violence is important because biases can hinder fair treatment and support for victims. This awareness is part of a broader effort, including striving for more equal opportunities, protecting marginalised groups in society, and counterbalancing the negative impact of media messages. Recognising and addressing these biases is essential to ensure that all victims receive the help and justice they need, regardless of their background. These steps provide you with practical tools to identify and challenge your own biases.13

1. Accept that you have biases:

  • Sometimes we have certain ways of thinking that might not be fair to everyone.
  • It is important to learn more about these ways of thinking and how they can affect our decisions.

2. Identify situations where mistakes can happen:

  • There are times when we might not make the best decisions because we are in a hurry or feeling angry.
  • It is good to ask friends and colleagues for feedback about us to understand our preferences and patterns.

3. Analyse how you see things:

  • When we see something, we have thoughts and feelings about it.
  • We can ask ourselves what we see, what we think, and how it makes us feel.

4. Understand where biases come from:

  • Our experiences and the culture we grow up in shape how we see and judge things.
  • We can think about where our ideas came from and how they might be different from others.

5. Reduce biases and be aware of them:

  • If we realise, we have biases, we can work on changing them.
  • Learning more about different topics can help us make fairer conclusions.

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Training materials to be used for a workshop or for your self-study can be found here.


  1. Anti-Bias. Unconscious Bias, Stereotype und Vorurteile (in German). ↩︎
  2. Anti-Bias. Denkfehler! Wie Unconscious Bias entstehen (in German). ↩︎
  3. Anti-Bias. Biases von A-Z (in German). ↩︎
  4. The Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness. Gender Norms and Gender Role Expectations. ↩︎
  5. The Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness. Gender Norms and Gender Role Expectations. ↩︎
  6. The Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness. Objectification. ↩︎
  7. The Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness. Trans-Misogyny. ↩︎
  8. The Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness. Avoiding Victim Blaming. ↩︎
  9. Anti-Bias. Counterstereotype Imaging – Stereotype wegdenken (in German). ↩︎
  10. Anti-Bias. Individuation – auf die Einzigartigkeit jedes Menschen fokussieren (in German). ↩︎
  11. Anti-Bias. Kontakttheorie – Kontakt hilft Stereotype und Vorurteile zu reduzieren (in German). ↩︎
  12. Anti-Bias. Perspektivenübernahme – in die Schuhe des Gegenübers schlüpfen (in German). ↩︎
  13. Anti-Bias. 5 Schritte gegen persönliche Biases (in German). ↩︎