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Issues in the Assessment of Sexual Offenders' Cognitive Distortions (From Handbook of Sex Offender Treatment, P 20-1 - 20-11, 2011, Barbara K. Schwartz, ed. - See NCJ-243091)

NCJ Number
Anita Schlank, Ph.D.
Date Published
11 pages
This chapter reviews the available measures of cognitive distortions in sex offender beliefs and attitudes and suggests how to use them.
The term "cognitive distortions" was first used by Beck (1963) in referring to specific types of thoughts usually associated with depression; Abel et al. (1984) were likely the first to apply this concept to sexual offenders. Cognitive distortions often used by sexual offenders include learned assumptions; self-statements; and attitudes that facilitate the offender's minimization, justification, and denial of his sexual offenses. Cognitive distortions are used by sex offenders to ensure themselves they have not behaved in such a way as to incur guilt, anxiety, and shame. Generally, cognitive distortions held by sex offenders include those that perceive children in sexual terms and minimize the harm caused to them by sexual abuse, those that emphasize sexual entitlement of males and view women as responsible for rape, and those that emphasize that the particular circumstances surrounding their behavior do not constitute a crime. Despite the treatment emphasis on identifying and correcting cognitive distortions underlying offending behavior, there are relatively few empirically validated measures that adequately assess these types of maladaptive beliefs. The chapter briefly describes and assesses the most commonly used tools for assessing cognitive distortions. These instruments are the Abel and Becker Cognitions Scale, the Burt Rape Myth Scale, the Multiphasic sex Inventory, the Bumby MOLEST and RAPE Scale, the Child Molester Scale, Empat, and the Denial and Minimization Checklist. Another section of the chapter reports on research studies on social desirability, the Abel and Becker Cognitions Scale, the Denial and Minimization Checklist-III, the Empat and CMS, the MSI, and the Bumby Cognition Scales. 41 references