Minimisation is when an offender believes their punishment is or was disproportionate. this is often said to be a counterproductive mentality because it lessens the responsibility from offenders. is this really true ? and does minimisation always lead to counterproductive outcomes and increased risk of re offending ?
Marshall, W. L. (1994). Treatment effects on denial and minimization in incarcerated sex offenders. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 32(5), 559-564. https://doi.org/10.1016/0005-7967(94)90145-7
Although much has been written about the fact that many sex offenders either deny they committed an offense or minimize their offense in some way (Murphy, 1990), very little research has focused on changing these stances despite the fact that treatment of other issues cannot proceed until denial is overcome and minimization has at least been significantly changed. Two studies have described the nature of excuses provided by sex offenders (Pollack & Hashmall, 1991; Scuily & Marolla, I984), and it is clear that these excuses represent a form of minimization, generally by shifting responsibility to factors or persons outside the offender. However, in these studies no suggestions were offered about how to eliminate such justifications.
Murphy (1990) outlined several approaches to the modification of the more general category of cognitive distortions and some of these procedures seem relevant to dealing effectively with denial and minimization. The only study, however, which has specifically targeted these problems, is reported by Barbaree (1991). Barbaree found that among 26 incarcerated rapists, 54% denied they had committed an offense and a further 42% minimized either their responsibility for the offense, or the harm they had done or the extent of their offending (frequency, forcefulness or degree of sexual intrusiveness). Barbaree’s incarcerated child molesters showed similar patterns (66% denied and 33% minimized). Treatment reduced the number of deniers who remained in therapy for the full program, from 22 to 3, but 15 of those deniers who admitted to having offended, were still minimizing at the end of treatment. Of the 15 who initially admitted but minimized their offense(s), only 3 gave up all evidence of minimizing as a result of treatment.
Overall, these results are impressive, although the number of offenders who continued to minimize is perhaps less encouraging. However, Barbaree did provide pre- and post-treatment evaluations using the Multiphasic Sex Inventory (Nichols & Molinder, 1984), which gives some indication of the degree of change in minimizing, albeit indirectly. He found significant reductions on 5 of the 6 subscales of the MS1 with the most salient being reductions in Justifications. So although many of Barbaree’s treated offenders continued to minimize, it may be that their degree of minimization was reduced.
Many clinicians, unfortunately, take the simple course of excluding deniers from their treatment programs, while others accept only those who are said to be motivated to change. In the latter cases, it is quite probable that most who are judged to be poorly motivated are also either denying or minimi~ng their offending. Excluding such potential patients seems likely to markedly reduce the number of sex offenders eligible for treatment and may very well eliminate from treatment some of the most dangerous offenders. In our treatment programs (Marshall, 1973; Marshall & Barbaree, 1988; Marshall, Eccles & Barbaree, 1991; Marshall & McKnight, 1975; Marshall & Williams, 1975) we have never refused treatment to deniers, because we expect most sex offenders to initially deny or minimize their ofIenses and because we assume it is our responsibility to facilitate their full admissions. The present report represents our first attempt to both describe our procedures for overcoming denial and reducing or eliminating minimization, and to report the effectiveness of these procedures.