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Human trafficking hits home

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

Human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes imaginable, and it hits closer to home than you might think.

In fact, U.S. airports are major hubs for criminals transporting women and children against their will, and now airlines are fighting back.

Petra Hensley spoke in front of a crowd about her own personal nightmare. When she was 16, she was abducted from a train station in Prague. Her kidnappers handcuffed her to a truck and then later to a bed.

Before she escaped through a window, she was held captive for days and sexually assaulted.

"For many months afterwards, I couldn't sleep in the dark. I had to put a lamp next to me. I had anxiety. I don't know who I am. I just completely changed as a person," said Hensley.

Stories like Hensley's are not uncommon. Nancy Rivard with Airline Ambassadors says every year, up to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders.

Rivard teaches airline staff how to spot women and children being held against their will because they are the first line of defense against the crime. "This is a huge problem. We can't stick our heads in the sand anymore," said Rivard.

Rivard says a trafficked person might avoid eye contact, be fearful of authority figures, seem disoriented, be dressed inappropriately, have injuries and not have identification.

Hensley says when she was abducted, she was just an average, carefree girl, but that girl is gone forever. "The physically scarring eventually heals. It does go away, but the psychological damage lingers for years and years and years. It took me almost 18 years to pull myself together."

Hensley just accepted a job as a flight attendant with American Airlines and will start in a few weeks.

Anyone who suspects human trafficking is urged to call the human trafficking hotline. That number is 1-888-3737-888.

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