BOOK REVIEW: “Runaway Girl” – Carissa Phelps

  (If you or someone you know is currently a victim of sex trafficking, please call 911   immediately. Also, for support and assistance, call 1-800-927-0197 or 541-754-0110. Please do not wait another moment).

I came across this book after a local paper had profiled it last month. I ordered it immediately, and once I started   reading it I couldn’t put it down.

I’m just going to be very blunt: I urge you to buy this book, read it, but be prepared because it is not an easy read. It’s not a matter of writing style, but of content. This book will bring you to tears.

I have had many conversations with people over the last two years regarding human trafficking, and one of the most common misperceptions I have run across is that human trafficking exists and is a problem outside of the United States, but not within our own borders.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Yes, while it is true that human sex trafficking isn’t as prevalent in the U.S. as it is in some countries, it is still a problem if even one person is being subjected to it. Yet each year in the United States, between 100,000 and 300,000 children, most of them girls, are trafficked, and subjected to horrible treatment at the hands of some very sick, evil people. Studies estimate that as many as 98% of prostituted girls and women are controlled by pimps. Traffickers ‘lure girls into prostitution by preying on their vulnerabilities, isolating them from everything that is familiar or comfortable, and promising them love and security. A trafficker will then manipulate the child’s world view until the child is completely dependant upon her exploiter. Control is maintained through deception and violence.’ (1) Carissa’s story is but one among a sea of stories out there, but thankfully (spoiler alert) it has had a very encouraging, triumphant ending, with the ultimate conclusion yet to be written.

As I said, this isn’t an easy book to read. It’s heartbreaking to hear her story. Carissa had an absence of healthy, responsible adults in her life. To be failed by so many of these adults is incomprehensible in its scope. Thankfully, in Carissa’s story, there are those adults and individuals who have taken the time to come alongside and not just be compassionate, but also were intuitive enough to ask the right questions, listen, and react appropriately.

Many people don’t know how to spot human trafficking in the U.S. It’s not easy. It’s not as if there’s a section of your town where everything is labeled clearly, where the pimps, the mafia, the criminals live, hang out and prostitute young women and children. It’s just not that clear. The criminals don’t walk around with scowls, ugly facial scars, and t-shirts that read ‘I’m The Bad Guy.’ “Runaway Girl” is a vital book to read in the sense that it gives you a clear picture of what a large segment of the victims go through. Again, it’s not an easy subject to read. It will shock you whether you are experienced in the subject of sex trafficking or not. For a clearer picture of what human sex trafficking looks like in the United States, read this book

In a nutshell, Carissa ran away from home at the age of 12, attempting to escape from a bad home situation, dropping out of school, and soon after was approached by an adult who promised security, love, and protection. What she received was as far from that promise as the East is to the West. Sexually pimped out for years starting at age 12, beaten, raped, exploited, she lived a life of disgrace, broken dreams, low self-esteem, and degradation of body and soul.

I will let you read the rest, so as not to spoil anything, but I will give you this much:

Fast-forward to the present: Carissa, now in her 30’s, has long escaped the potentially lethal life she was trapped in, and gone back to college. Earning a law degree and MBA from UCLA, she’s now an attorney, motivational speaker, and youth advocate who is involved with a global collective that helps local and international survivors of sex trafficking to rebuild their lives. Her story was the subject of an award-winning documentary, “Carissa.” Please visit her website if you get a chance, and if possible schedule her for a speaking engagement, or drop her a note of encouragement:

I am so inspired and touched by this book that I will send a copy free of charge to the first three people who comment on this post. There is just one condition: That after you read this book, you give it to someone you would like to read it, with the request that they, too, give it to someone after they have read it, and so on. Sign your name in the front or back cover, and keep the gift going. Just send me your shipping information and I will send it to you ASAP (I will not publish your shipping information in your reply, I will edit it out of the post).



For more some basic facts on sex trafficking, what to do if you are a victim, or how to help a victim, visit


4 Comments on “BOOK REVIEW: “Runaway Girl” – Carissa Phelps

  1. Hi Dug,
    Thanks for the awesome review! If I’m one of the first to comment can you send the copy of the book to a local shelter or group home for girls! That would be fantastic!!! I’m grateful for your enthusiasm in this fight. It will be a long one and we all need to bring the best of ourselves to it!
    Take care!

    • Hi Carissa!

      Thank you for your kind words, Carissa! I’ll gladly send a copy as you wished. I’m humbled you found my site, and took the time to say hello. Your story is amazing, and needs to be told! I’m encouraged by your spirit and your dedication. Blessings!

  2. Hi Dug,
    I saw the article on your cross country bike ride in the SLO Tribune today, which led me to your website and your post about Carissa’s book. I am a SLO County Foster Parent, and Carissa spoke at one of our events last year. I was not aware she had a book out, and would love to read it! Best of luck to you on your epic journey! I too am passionate about human trafficking, and I will definitely be sending you a donation!

    • Hi Laura!

      First, thank you for placing yourself in such a vitally important position as a foster parent. You are a hero! Thank you so much for your donation, that was very generous and selfless. I’m glad that you had Carissa speak, she is very impressive. Her book is incredible, a very clear glimpse into a world many don’t even know exist – and she was able to escape from it. Hard to keep dry eyes through the book.
      Thank you for your heart. I’m honored you’re going to join the ride! 🙂



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