Carissa Phelps

“Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets One Helping Hand at a Time”

Before she was an attorney, author and advocate, Carissa Phelps first became a survivor of domestic minor sex trafficking.  Carissa understands the challenges children face after being neglected and sexually exploited because she lived them firsthand. Featured in the award-winning documentary Carissa, directed by David Sauvage and released in 2008, she shares her amazing juvy-to-justice story and promise she made to herself that she would one day return to the streets — this time to help girls like her succeed. In her memoir, Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets, One Helping Hand at a Time, Phelps shares how the unexpected kindness of a teacher and a counselor transformed her life and helped her become a mentor and advocate.

Carissa Phelps

Although Carissa stopped attending school at the age of 12, she ultimately spent more than a decade furthering her education.  Her credentials include a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics summa cum laude from Fresno State, a Juris Doctorate from UCLA School of Law, and an MBA from UCLA Anderson School of Management.  In 2010, she was named one of the top 100 inspirational graduates at UCLA Anderson, in a ceremony marking the school’s 75th anniversary.

Carissa’s personal accomplishments, as well as her faith, have given her the courage to expose and respond to domestic minor sex trafficking in the United States.  Together with partners around the world, she is part of a global network to connect resources and assist local and international survivors in rebuilding their lives.  Carissa mentors young survivors who have experienced sexual exploitation.  In addition, she is building a searchable database to connect survivors and their mentors to resources around the world. Her mission is to assist those who wish to prevent and respond to child trafficking.

To fulfill her mission, Carissa founded NAIOC, the National Alliance to Improve Outcomes for CSEC (Commercially Sexually Exploited Children). Through this national organization, she works with social workers, police officers, and medical professionals on the local level to train them to effectively communicate with minor sex trafficking victims. 


Carissa’s voice continues to inspire in various films including the journalist project Sex and Money, A National Search for Human Worth. Her passion has been shared with thousands at conferences, small meeting rooms, and coalitions to end trafficking.  While her story inspires and brings hope to a movement that can appear to be frustrating and without a solution, her command of resources, networks, business, and the law supports local efforts to protect and care for children in their community.

Carissa currently lives in California and practices employment law.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Albert Taylor Hall in Plumb Hall
on the Emporia State University Campus
7 p.m.

Admission is free but reserved tickets are required for seating. Please call 341-6378 or (877) 341-6378 for tickets.

Reception and book signing immediately following in the Rotunda of Plumb Hall.