Study Points

Human Trafficking and Exploitation

Course #96312 - $20 • 5 Hours/Credits

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    • Review the course material online or in print.
    • Complete the course evaluation.
    • Review your Transcript to view and print your Certificate of Completion. Your date of completion will be the date (Pacific Time) the course was electronically submitted for credit, with no exceptions. Partial credit is not available.
  1. How is human smuggling different from human trafficking?

    DEFINITIONS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING

    In essence, this definition involves three elements: the transport of the person, the force or coercion of the victim, and the abuse and exploitation [47]. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime divides the definition of human trafficking into three sections: the act, means, and purpose [7]. The act, or what is done, generally refers to activities such as recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons. The means of trafficking consists of threats or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of the victim. Finally, these acts are carried out for the purpose of exploitation, which includes prostitution, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery or forced servitude, and the removal of organs [7]. It is important to remember that human trafficking is not human smuggling. Human smuggling involves an individual being brought into a country through illegal means and is voluntary. The individual has provided some remuneration to another individual or party to accomplish this goal [8].

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  2. What is domestic minor sex trafficking?

    FORMS OF TRAFFICKING

    The TVPA of 2000 is a U.S. federal statute passed by Congress to address the issue of human trafficking and offers protection for human trafficking victims [10]. This statute defines sex trafficking as, "the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act" [10]. A commercial sex act is, "any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person" [10]. In other words, it usually involves the illegal transport of humans into another country to be exploited in a sexual manner for financial gains [11]. However, it does not always involve the transport of victims from one region to another; such cases are referred to as "internal trafficking" [112]. Victims of sex trafficking could be forced into prostitution, stripping, pornography, escort services, and other sexual services [12]. Victims may be adult women or men or children, although there is a higher prevalence of women and girls. The term "domestic minor sex trafficking" has become a popular term used to connote the buying, selling, and/or trading of children younger than 18 years of age for sexual services within the country, not internationally [12,113]. An element of force, fraud, or coercion is not necessary, as the victims are children and inherently vulnerable [113]. In the United States, the children most vulnerable to domestic minor sex trafficking are those who are homeless, abused, runaways, and/or in child protective services [12].

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  3. What is the main factor that differentiates prostitutes and sex trafficking victims?

    FORMS OF TRAFFICKING

    Although highly controversial, it is said that sex trafficking victims differ from prostitutes in that sex trafficking victims are forced to involuntarily perform sexual services and are often not paid for their "work." Sex trafficking involves the use of force and coercion and can encompass other forms of criminal sexual activities, including forced erotic dancing, "mail-order brides," and pornography [112]. On the other hand, individuals involved in prostitution make a decision to provide sex services for a fee. The decision to enter prostitution does not eliminate the possibility of being a victim of trafficking if one is held against his/her will through physical and/or psychologic abuse [27]. It is also important to remember that this does not necessarily mean prostitution is a choice these individuals would have made if other options were available or that they have a choice in selecting their sexual partners and/or sexual activities [13].

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  4. Which of the following statements regarding the debt in bonded labor is TRUE?

    FORMS OF TRAFFICKING

    In many cases of bonded labor, the initial loan may be welcomed by the individual. However, the victims do not realize that with the low wages, unspoken high interest rates and other continually accruing fees, and the perpetrator's manipulation of the "accounts," laborers can never repay the loans. Some estimate that half of all persons in forced labor are bonded laborers. The majority of bonded labor cases occur in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan [114]. Some families find themselves in a cycle of poverty as the debt cannot be paid off and is passed down from generation to generation [15]. Bonded labor can involve laborers in brick kilns, mines, stone quarries, looming factories, agricultural farms, and other manufacturing factories [15]. In the United States, individuals may be trafficked to work long hours in garment factories, restaurants, and other manufacturing sectors. Frequently, the employer/captor will take away victims' identifications, monitor their movements, socially isolate them, and/or threaten deportation if they do not comply [16]. Migrant workers are at high risk of forced labor [27].

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  5. Domestic servitude is a

    FORMS OF TRAFFICKING

    Domestic servitude refers to a category of domestic workers (usually female) who work in forced labor as servants, housekeepers, maids, and/or caregivers, often in private homes. In some cases, young women are lured with the promise of a good education and work, and when they arrive in the United States, they are exploited economically, physically, and/or sexually. Their passports or identification papers are taken away, and they are told they have to pay off the debt incurred for their travel, processing fees, and any other bogus expenses. Because they do not speak English, they find they have no other recourse but to endure exploitive working conditions [17]. Unfortunately, as in many sectors of forced labor, there are no regulations to monitor the conditions under which domestic servants operate [16].

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  6. Why do some traffickers prefer to recruit children to serve as soldiers?

    FORMS OF TRAFFICKING

    It is estimated that at any one time 250,000 to 300,000 children younger than 18 years of age are currently serving as child soldiers [24,72]. Traffickers prefer to recruit children to serve as soldiers because they are inexpensive and more easily molded and shaped to comply and obey without question [25]. They are also more likely to kill fearlessly and recklessly. Child soldiers are treated as adults, without any regard to how the physical and psychologic rigors of war will affect them psychologically and developmentally. In Uganda, where children are kidnapped or recruited as child soldiers relatively often, the Lord's Resistance Army has been known to initiate new child soldiers in brutal ritualized killings of others so as to terrorize them into submission and annihilate any moral conscience they may have about killing [25]. In Afghanistan, children have been recruited by the Taliban and have served as suicide bombers [114].

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  7. How does digital technology play a role in human trafficking?

    FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO HUMAN TRAFFICKING

    The rampant use of digital technology, such as the Internet, greatly facilitates sex trafficking. The relative anonymity of online contact can empower traffickers to recruit or sell victims. Graphic images of women and children engaged in sexual acts can be easily disseminated over the Internet [46]. Traffickers may employ the Internet for advertising, marketing to those interested in making pornography [46]. In addition, social media sites such as Facebook, Craigslist, and Instagram have been used as a means of facilitating trafficking (e.g., by connecting and grooming potential victims) [80,123,124]. Newsgroups offer opportunities for those interested in locating women and children for sexual exploitation.

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  8. Which of the following is NOT an example of how culture can contribute to human trafficking?

    FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO HUMAN TRAFFICKING

    Race and ethnicity have been inextricably linked to sexual violence and victimization. Myths regarding sexuality in certain cultures or racial fetishization may affect trafficking patterns. For example, there is an over-representation of Asian women on American Internet pornography sites in part due to popular myths sexualizing, eroticizing, and exoticizing Asian women. This has translated into trafficking, as traffickers respond to the demand for young Asian women and girls in part fueled by these stereotypes of exotic, docile, submissive, and eager-to-please Asian women [17]. These stereotypes devalue and dehumanize people, which is the underlying core of human trafficking. This contributes to the acceptability of the exploitation of individuals, particularly members of marginalized groups [125].

    These racial stereotypes go beyond simply framing the victims in a particular manner [81]. They raise implicit questions regarding how the powers of state are depicted. In other words, the patriarchal attitudes of certain countries lead to "bad" or "backward" cultural practices or ways of being that then cause trafficking—setting up is a dichotomy of the "West" and "others" [81].

    Although many are careful in linking cultural factors to the etiology of human trafficking for fear of imposing judgment on a particular culture, many maintain that cultural ideologies that tolerate sexual trafficking, bonded labor, and child labor may be a stronger factor than poverty in predicting trafficking rates [17,23]. For example, some cultures emphasize collectivism and prioritizing the needs of the family and group first before the needs of the individual. Some children may feel they have to sacrifice themselves for their family when traffickers promise money [17]. Traffickers also know that they can threaten to hurt victims' families to keep them from escaping [17].

    Furthermore, in many cultures, boys are more highly valued than girls, and as a result, girls are considered more dispensable [17]. Sons are considered the family's social security, staying with the family while daughters marry into other families. Therefore, girls may be more likely to be sold into slavery than boys.

    Child labor is also inextricably tied to cultural factors. In India, for example, child labor is common because it is believed that children in the lower levels of caste system (i.e., the "untouchables") should be socialized early to understand their positions in society [23]. It has been observed that when traditional cultural and societal norms about women's roles were relaxed in some European countries and more women entered the labor force, child labor decreased [23]. Ultimately, it is difficult to unravel the effects of poverty and culture because the pressures of poverty can lead families to use tradition as a justification to sacrifice young men, women, and children [23].

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  9. Which of the following is NOT a barrier to studying human trafficking?

    BARRIERS IN STUDYING HUMAN TRAFFICKING

    Another reason human trafficking has been a difficult topic to research is the hidden and invisible nature of its victims and perpetrators. This makes it difficult for researchers to use traditional sampling methods. Even if trafficked victims are identified, perpetrators can move them to new locations [30]. If and when researchers access this hidden population, victims are often reluctant to talk due to fear, shame, and the stigma associated with their experiences. Consequently, much of what has been studied has relied on interviews with professionals (e.g., lawyers, advocates, police/law enforcement, and other service providers), which has led to recommendations that are not based on firsthand accounts [84].

    A host of ethical issues also arise for those conducting research in this area. Protecting study participants' identities is paramount, and consequently, study participants signing informed consent forms, which are often required by institutional review boards, becomes complicated. Understandably, victims and perpetrators often will not want to sign forms using their real names for fear of deportation, arrest, and/or reprisals [30].

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  10. Which of the following is NOT a perspective that has been employed to understand human trafficking?

    PERSPECTIVES OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING

    Several perspectives have been employed to understand human trafficking and exploitation, including feminist, criminal justice/criminology, migration and labor, human rights, and labor rights perspectives. Each offers insight into how the problem is viewed and presented.

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  11. If a person argues that human trafficking victims are not victims but criminals (mainly prostitutes) and advocates raiding brothels and arresting them, what perspective is influencing his or her thinking?

    PERSPECTIVES OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING

    A second lens used to frame human trafficking is a criminal justice or criminology perspective, which focuses on assigning blame and guilt, potentially charging the victim for criminal activities such as illegal migration or prostitution [36]. For example, entering the United States illegally is a crime, and law enforcement could view the trafficked person as a criminal co-conspirator [37]. This is important because the United States government is struggling to address the illegal immigration issue; those adhering to this perspective would view all "irregular" migrants in the United States as criminals first. When individuals are shown to have been abused and exploited, they are then recast as victims [28]. Similarly, human sexual trafficking is often equated with prostitution and is viewed as morally sinful and evil [36]. This perspective conceptualizes trafficking as an elaborate system of organized crime networks that sponsors a hugely profitable industry [38].

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  12. If a person staunchly advocates for publicizing and raising awareness regarding the community's role in contributing to human trafficking (e.g., by purchasing certain products), what perspective is influencing his or her argument?

    PERSPECTIVES OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING

    As with slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries, trafficking victims today have no choice over their abusive and exploitive conditions. Unlike the "older" forms of slavery, this modern form is an outcome of globalization [28]. The human rights perspective also argues that, to some extent, the general public indirectly contributes to the problem of human trafficking as consumers in the global market [28]. In a study of how human trafficking is socially constructed, the videos being examined portrayed general consumers and corporations as perpetrators of human trafficking in addition to pimps, crime organizations, and middlemen recruiters [40].

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  13. Which of the following is a method of recruitment used by human traffickers?

    THE TRAFFICKING EXPERIENCE

    It has been suggested human traffickers employ five general strategies to recruit and traffic victims [42,88,130,131]:

    • Kidnapping: Traffickers may kidnap their victims. They may lure them with food or treats or take them by force. Victims with few if any social ties are highly vulnerable, as no one will miss them or report their disappearance.

    • Targeting poor families: Traffickers may convince families to sell their children (often daughters). Because many families in developing countries live in abject poverty, traffickers will stress to victims' families how the money will help them to survive. Other traffickers may tell families that selling their daughter will provide her with more promising opportunities.

    • Developing a false romantic relationship with victim: A tactic often used with young girls, perpetrators pose as boyfriends by romancing victims, buying gifts, and proclaiming their love. Victims have a difficult time believing that their boyfriends would hurt or deceive them, making them easy targets for trafficking.

    • Fake storefronts: Some employment, modeling, or marriage agencies are fronts for illegal trafficking operations. A potential victim might be lured with the promise of employment, a lucrative modeling contract, or an arranged marriage in the United States. After victims have been lured in, traffickers come to assess their "product." Perpetrators may be family members or friends.

    • Legal storefronts: Some legal businesses in the tourism, entertainment, and leisure industries integrate trafficking activities into their business structure.

    • Recruiting local prostitutes: Traffickers might purchase prostitutes working in local night clubs from brothel owners or simply lure prostitutes by promising them a more affluent future. Women working as prostitutes may later recruit younger victims.

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  14. Which of the following statements about the psychologic consequences of human trafficking is FALSE?

    CONSEQUENCES OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING: IMPACT ON VICTIMS

    Victims of trafficking experience a host of psychologic, mental health, and emotional distress. Depression, suicidal ideation, substance use, and anxiety are typically cited mental health problems [113]. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is also common given the trauma many victims experience, including physical and/or sexual violence and abuse; victims forced into prostitution experience continual, daily sexual assault [49]. In a study of 192 European women who were trafficked but who managed to escape, the overwhelming majority (95%) disclosed that they experienced physical and sexual violence during the time of their trafficked experience [50]. More than 90% reported sexual abuse, and 76% reported physical abuse.

    Trafficked victims experience fear from the start of their capture through the transit phase and after they arrive at their destination. During the transit stage, many victims experience dangerous border crossings, risky types of transports, injury, beatings, and sexual assault [41]. Upon arrival to their destination, many trafficking victims have been socially isolated, held in confinement, and deprived of food [134]. All sense of security is stripped from them—their personal possessions, identity papers, passports, visas, and other documents [41,134]. The continual fear for their personal safety and their families' safety and the perpetual threats of deportation ultimately breed a sense of loss of control and learned helplessness. It is not surprising that depression, anxiety, and PTSD are common symptoms experienced by trafficked victims.

    In a study of 164 survivors of human trafficking who returned to Nepal, the authors examined the extent to which they experienced PTSD, depression, and anxiety [51]. All of the survivors experienced some level of these disorders, but the survivors who were trafficked for sex experienced higher levels of depression and PTSD compared to those who were not trafficked for sex. In a study with Moldovan survivors of human trafficking, researchers found that six months after their return, 54% had diagnosable mental health issue. Specifically, 35.8% met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD, 12.5% met the criteria for major depression, and 5.8% were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder [92].

    There is also some evidence that trafficked victims may experience complex PTSD, a type of PTSD that involves an acute change of the victims' sense of self, their relationship with others, and their relationship with God or higher being [93]. These persons direct anger inwardly (toward themselves) in addition to toward their perpetrators, which results in a loss of faith in themselves and the world [93,129,134]. Perhaps due to self-directed anger and shame, some will engage in risky sexual behaviors, self-harm, and substance abuse. Some victims also have difficulty managing and expressing how they are feeling, while others experience dissociation [134].

    Substance abuse is also common among victims. In interviews, trafficked women discussed how traffickers forced them to use substances like drugs and/or alcohol so they could work longer hours, take on more clients, and/or perform sexual acts that they could not normally [41]. Other victims used substances as a means to cope with their situations. Trafficked individuals who are gender and/or sexual minorities report shame, confusion, and sexual identity issues if forced into heterosexual relationships [129].

    Children forced into labor experience grueling hours and are frequently beaten by their captors. According to Clawson and Goldblatt, underage victims of domestic sex trafficking fluctuate through a range of emotions from despair, shame, guilt, hopelessness, anxiety, and fear [52]. Depending upon the level of trauma, some engage in self-destructive behaviors like self-mutilation or suicide attempts. For some, their ambivalence toward the perpetrators may be confusing. On the one hand, they want to escape the abuse, yet simultaneously, they may have a sort of traumatic bond with the perpetrators [52].

    Children forced into conscription will also experience a host of psychologic symptoms. In a study comparing former Nepalese child soldiers and children who were never conscripted, former child soldiers experienced higher levels of depression, anxiety, PTSD, psychologic difficulties, and functional impairments [53]. In another study of former children soldiers from the Congo and Uganda, one-third met the criteria for PTSD [26]. The researchers found there was a relationship between greater levels of PTSD symptoms and higher levels of feelings of revenge and lower levels of openness to reconciliation [26]. In-depth narrative interviews of former child soldiers from northern Uganda found that the children spoke of the violence and atrocities they witnessed without any emotion, as if they had removed themselves from their experiences [94]. This speaks to how the victims have to numb themselves psychologically in order to cope. The researchers also found that the children who lost their mothers were more traumatized by this experience than the violence they witnessed as soldiers.

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  15. Which of the following is a common culture-based idiom of distress?

    CONSEQUENCES OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING: IMPACT ON VICTIMS

    In studies of trafficked women, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, back pain, pelvic pain, stomach pain, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unwanted pregnancies, and gynecologic infections were common, generally the result of continual physical, psychologic, and sexual abuse [50,113]. Victims of labor trafficking also experience health issues related to the type of work, workplace conditions, malnutrition, and violence [136]. It is important to remember that some of these somatic complaints, such as headaches, fatigue, and gastrointestinal problems, may be underlying symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress [50]. Some cultural groups might not use the terms "depression," "sad," or "anxious," but may use metaphors and somatic symptoms to describe their pain, all of which are embedded within cultural ideologies. The most common culture-based idioms of distress are somatic symptoms. Some groups tend not to psychologize emotional problems; instead, they experience psychologic conflicts as bodily sensations (e.g., headaches, bodily aches, gastrointestinal problems, and dizziness).

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  16. Child laborers who work in agricultural fields might be more susceptible to certain cancers due to

    CONSEQUENCES OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING: IMPACT ON VICTIMS

    Under normal circumstances, young children are still developing physically; however, such adverse conditions can halt their development. The lungs of adolescent boys typically experience the most rapid growth around 13 to 17 years of age; working in conditions characterized by excessive toxic dust or unclean air makes them more vulnerable to developing silicosis and fibrosis [57]. In the United States, young children participating in agricultural work are at risk of the major traumas associated with farm work, such as injuries caused by tractors or falling from heights, in addition to those injuries associated with repetitive stress and exposure to toxins. Children have thinner layers of epidermis, which make them more vulnerable to the toxicity of pesticides, and this can ultimately increase their risks for certain cancers [57]. Children working in gold mines do intensive digging, lifting, and transporting and mix mercury with the crushed ore, often with their bare hands. Mercury toxicity can lead to neurologic symptoms such as loss of vision, tremors, and memory loss [96].

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  17. If a practitioner suspects an individual is a victim of human trafficking, who should he/she contact?

    IDENTIFICATION AND ASSESSMENT

    If answers to these questions indicate that an individual may be a victim of human trafficking, one should contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Under the child abuse laws, practitioners who are mandated reporters and who are suspicious that a minor is being abused should immediately report the abuse. For more information regarding specific states' reporting requirements, please visit https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/systemwide/laws-policies/state.

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  18. What should a practitioner consider when interviewing a victim of human trafficking?

    IDENTIFICATION AND ASSESSMENT

    Service providers should repeatedly weigh the risks and benefits of various actions when interviewing human trafficking victims [88,99,100]. The following interviewing recommendations were published by the World Health Organization to encourage service providers to continually and ethically promote human trafficking victims' safety during every phase of the interviewing process [66,137]:

    • Each victim and trafficking situation should be treated as unique; there are no standard templates of experiences. Listen carefully to the victim's story. Each story told is unique, and each patient will voice distinctive concerns. Believe each story, no matter how incredible it may seem. As rapport and trust build (perhaps very slowly), accounts may become more extensive.

    • Always be safe and assume the victim is at risk of physical, psychologic, social, and legal harm.

    • Evaluate the risks and benefits of interviewing before starting the interviewing process. The interviewing process should not invoke more distress. In other words, the interviewing process should not end up re-traumatizing the victim.

    • Provide referrals for services where necessary; however, it is necessary to be realistic and not make promises that cannot be kept. Trust is vital because it has been severed on so many levels for trafficking victims.

    • Victims' readiness to change will not be based on what societal defines as "ready" or social expectations. Some victims will eagerly grasp new opportunities, while others may be fearful of potential traffickers' threat and be less receptive to help.

    • Determine the need for interpreters and if other service providers should be present during the interviewing phase. Ensure that everyone involved is adequately prepared in their knowledge about human trafficking, how perpetrators control their victims, and how to ask questions in a culturally sensitive manner. Keep in mind that often times, traffickers will offer to help with the interpreting. Using interpreters from the same community of the victim should be avoided to prevent breaches in confidentiality.

    • All involved should be prepared for an emergency plan. For example, is there a set plan for a victim who indicates he/she is suicidal or in danger of being hurt?

    • Always be sure to obtain informed consent. Remember the informed consent process is going to be unfamiliar to many victims. In addition, self-determination and autonomy have been compromised by continual threatens and being forced to commit dehumanizing acts. Avoid using legal and technical jargon.

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  19. What is one of the concerns about the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA)?

    INTERVENTIONS

    One of the criticisms of the Act is that it places the burden of demonstrating innocence and coercion on the victim [34]. The Act also fails to recognize the complex dynamics of human trafficking. For example, it focuses more on sex trafficking versus other forms [144]. Many victims have been abused and terrorized by the perpetrators, who they must now provide information and evidence against to stay in the country. Victims are continually fearful that they will be deported [34].

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  20. What is a potential consequence for practitioners in working with victims of abuse, including human trafficking victims?

    COUNTERTRANSFERENCE, SECONDARY TRAUMATIZATION, AND SELF-CARE

    The terms "secondary traumatization," "secondary traumatic stress," "secondary victimization," "vicarious traumatization," and "compassion fatigue" refer to the psychologic impact of being in close contact with those who are directly affected by trauma and helping or wanting to help the victim. Figley has defined secondary traumatic stress as, "the natural, consequent behaviors and emotions resulting from knowledge about a traumatizing event experienced by a significant other" [68]. Vicarious traumatization consists of a "transformation of the inner experience of the therapist that comes about as a result of empathic engagement with patients' trauma material" [69]. Vicarious traumatization can include emotional and cognitive arousal symptoms such as increased emotional sensitivity, lack of well-being, intrusive thoughts, and difficulty concentrating [70].

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  • Back to Course Home
  • Participation Instructions
    • Review the course material online or in print.
    • Complete the course evaluation.
    • Review your Transcript to view and print your Certificate of Completion. Your date of completion will be the date (Pacific Time) the course was electronically submitted for credit, with no exceptions. Partial credit is not available.