“Runaway Girl is both a cautionary tale about the realities of sex-trafficking in the U.S. and an inspirational story of the change that is possible with the help of others. A very important read for both parents and teenagers.”



The details of rape, drug use, abandonment, abuse, and neglect in Runaway Girl by Carissa Phelps led me to empathize with her plight. Carissa was born in a central California town called Coalinga to a passive mother and a father who would largely disappear from her life during her childhood.

Her parents’ union produced six children. After their divorce, her mother married a man named Steve from southern California. This marriage produced a son. (Steve had three sons and a daughter from a previous relationship. The mother of the children had died.)

During her childhood, Carissa learned about God, the Bible, and prayer. She memorized each character and their significance. The hopefulness of the verses persuaded Carissa to pray, a habit she maintained throughout her life. Yet, Carissa grew frustrated with the lack of attention and care from her parents and decided to run away from home. At the time, she was twelve years old.

Her extended family was unreliable so she plunges into a series of progressively worse circumstances until she ends up in a girls’ detention camp. This location awakened Carissa to the severity of her status. Should she continue with her incorrigible lifestyle or should she take the opportunity to advance herself? She wised up with some bumps.

After two divorces and graduating from CSU Fresno, she entered UCLA to earn a law degree and a MBA. She achieved both, along with passing the California bar exam in 2008. Carissa didn’t deny she made unwise choices but she doesn’t classify sexually exploited children as prostitutes. “It is rape, abuse, slavery, and torture (Phelps 289).”

Many survivors don’t practice safe ways of coping and instead self-medicate with drugs, alcohol, and/or toxic relationships. She acknowledges that after hellish experiences, many individuals define success intangibly: “a good night’s sleep, the ability to hold a job, to maintain friendships or relationships, to further an education, to be self-sustaining, to trust in people, to nurture our faith in God- or simply not to harm others in a cycle of violence and abuse that gets perpetuated generation after generation (Phelps 289).”

Carissa Phelps has been blessed with resilience. Now she strengthens others.


Reviewed by:

Karah Khalia

Added 30th October 2017

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Karah Khalia