Saved by teachers, a former runaway now helps kids in crisis

When Carissa Phelps was only 12 years old, her mother dropped her off at the juvenile hall in Fresno, California, Take Part reports. She had been skipping school and running with a wild crowd, and her mother, who had ten other children to deal with in a broken home, had had enough. “I can’t control her,” she simply said before walking out. Phelps sat in the lobby for three days waiting for a group home to take her. When one finally did, it wasn’t long before she ran away. She lived on the streets, scrounging for food and a place to sleep, and was kidnapped by a pimp who brutally raped her and sold her to countless johns. At one point after being forced to smoke crack, she called her mother for help; her mother refused.  When Phelps eventually made her way home (after the pimp was arrested), her family did not know how to help her, nor did they particularly show any concern for her wellbeing. She was a girl traumatically marked by her experiences, physically and emotionally as well as socially. “I felt like an oddball because everyone knew my story,” she says. “At times it felt like it was very dangerous, girls who wanted to fight me or make fun of me. It was that general feeling of not belonging.”

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