Carissa Phelps, author with Larkin Warren of RUNAWAY GIRL: Escaping Life on the Streets, One Helping Hand at a Time shares her astonishing story of triumph and a fierce determination to give back on the Conversation Crossroad radio program.
When Carissa Phelps was only 14 years old she found herself in a last-chance rehab facility for young people, on the verge of becoming another casualty of the streets. What had started out as frequent sleepovers at friends’ houses to escape the wrath of her stepfather and her chaotic, impoverished home, grew into full-fledged running away, until her exasperated mother finally abandoned her at Fresno’s Juvenile Hall. She was 12 years old. From this point, Carissa pinballed between the streets and various group homes or state run facilities. She experienced trauma that no child should have to endure at the hands of a brutal pimp, who made her walk the streets. But by some miracle she survived, and the child victim grew up to be a strong, successful woman, driven by her desire to pay it forward by helping kids in need. RUNAWAY GIRL: Escaping Life on the Streets, One Helping Hand at a Time by Carissa Phelps, co-authored with Larkin Warren, is her story.
When Carissa landed in that last-chance facility, she knew she had come to the end of the road—only prison lay beyond it. But it was the true compassion and concern of a math teacher, who nurtured Carissa’s innate love of numbers, and a counselor who taught her both to tell her story and to value herself that truly initiated her transformation from runaway to student to success story. By the time Carissa was thirty, she had graduated from UCLA with both a law degree and an MBA, and now devotes herself to helping end the global sex trade, in particular focusing on working as a youth advocate and motivational speaker.
RUNAWAY GIRL is a wake-up call to those of us who think that child sex-trafficking doesn’t happen here in the U.S. or outside of major urban areas—and Carissa is an important voice in this discussion. For victims and survivors of the sex trade, Carissa shows that it is possible to escape and to rebuild their lives. She explains how communities can fight back and prevent children from becoming victims, including becoming aware of what internet sites cater to predators and fighting against zoning laws that make certain areas of cities de facto “red light” districts. RUNAWAY GIRL is an inspiring true story about finding the courage to run toward healing and summoning the strength to light the way for others.
“A California attorney and youth advocate’s rivetingly raw account of the years she spent as a runaway, juvenile delinquent and prostitute…A genuinely important book that casts the problem of sex trafficking in America into stunning, heartbreaking relief.” – Kirkus Reviews
“In this brave memoir, Phelps spares no detail of her loveless, troubled childhood… and with setbacks, Phelps rebuilds her life and graduates from high school thanks to the perseverance of a teacher. She finds love and acceptance through the kindness of strangers who see her potential. Later, while earning a law degree and M.B.A. from UCLA, the author, as she explains, takes great strides to reach out to troubled kids, and creates a documentary, Carissa, about her life.” – Publishers Weekly
“Her story is nothing short of miraculous, and gives hope that we can create the same story for other lost girls trapped in the world of drugs and sexual exploitation. Staggeringly raw; unbelievably inspiring.” – Amy Lahti, Marketing and Events Manager, Bookworks, Albuquerque, NM
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