Do you or I have Bias? Addressing and Overcoming Bias


Monday, October 9, 2017
2:30 pm - 4:30 pm, Honolulu 3, TAPA

Increasing Access to Community Services and the Criminal Justice System for Diverse Populations, including Immigrant Populations and People with Disabilities


Through interactive exercises, video clips, and discussion, participants will explore how stereotypes and assumptions about marginalized communities, including immigrant populations and people with disabilities, impede access to community services and the criminal justice system.

Research indicates that we all have bias and several types of bias exist in our society – Workplace, Political, Educational and Media biases.  Understanding how bias affects our decision-making processes improves the chance that professionals will provide effective services to diverse populations, including LEP individuals and people with disabilities.  Furthermore, research indicates that when we ‘Start by Believing’ (listen to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, not make assumptions, conduct an investigation and follow the chain of evidence), victims are more likely to report the crime, leading to the important goal of increasing perpetrator accountability.  The Justice Department states, “Explicit and implicit biases, including stereotypes about gender roles, sexual assault, and domestic violence, are embedded in our culture and can affect people in all different professions. With respect to policing, these biases may affect law enforcement officers’ perceptions of sexual assault and domestic violence incidents and prevent them from effectively handling allegations of these crimes.”  Biases may also affect community professionals and their perceptions of diverse populations, thereby reducing the effectiveness of provided services.  Through the lens of diverse populations explored during this engaging workshop, participants will gain insight into the impact of and strategies to overcome bias across diverse populations.

Learning Outcomes

  • Recognize the impact of bias on diverse populations’ access to community services and the criminal justice system;
  • Discuss strategies to overcome assumptions and stereotypes, which both influence interactions with diverse populations and people with disabilities;
  • Identify tools to improve communication and provide effective services to domestic violence and sexual assault victims from diverse backgrounds.

Workshop Leader

Photo: Varsha

Varsha serves as an independent training consultant and has been a guest speaker at non-profit organizations, agencies, and universities nationally and internationally addressing a wide variety of topics including diversity, cross-cultural communication, domestic violence and sexual assault. She is well-experienced in working with survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence in a variety of settings, including survivors from diverse socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. Varsha has provided and directed the training of advocates and staff in skills and knowledge related to the support of survivors. Varsha has developed programs to broaden services provided by rape crisis centers, to improve protocols for advocates working on national crisis helplines and in-person hospital advocacy, and to address unique challenges, such as how to manage abusive callers.

In addition to managing programs related to diversity and underserved groups, she has also advanced her skills through certificate training in Intercultural Communication. Varsha delivers thought provoking, interactive workshops designed to create awareness, overcome barriers, and provide necessary tools to enhance communication with diverse populations. In the past, she has also assisted with guardian ad litem and political asylum cases.

Her work experiences include serving diverse immigrant populations from Somalia, India, Iraq, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Nepal, Russia, and many more. Varsha received her BA from Columbia University in New York and later received her JD. Varsha serves on the Los Angeles Police Department DNA Taskforce and on the Executive Board of End Violence Against Women International, committed to educating those who respond to gender-based violence, equipping them with the knowledge and tools they need to support victims, and holding perpetrators accountable.