Consider Carissa Phelps. Successful lawyer. Prosperous businesswoman. Author of an up-coming book. Former commercially sexually exploited child. Something doesn’t fit there? You might be surprised…
For those of you who follow the fight against human trafficking in this country, Carissa Phelps is known as an incredible advocate for action. The subject of a powerful documentary called Carissa, and now an author of a book that tells her incredible story, Carissa was a runaway living on the streets in Fresno, and caught up in a world of crime and prostitution at 12 years of age. How Carissa Phelps not only survived her journey but prospered, gaining a law degree and MBA from UCLA, is best left to the book.
What is also noteworthy about Carissa Phelps’ story is the action it sparks in others.
Consider Catherine Carlton, co-chair of the Junior Leagues of California State Public Affairs Committee, or CalSPAC, and a member of the Junior League of Palo Alto-Mid Peninsula.
CalSPAC is the sponsor of AB 1940, a bill in the California Assembly that would allow victims of trafficking to delete their human trafficking-related arrest and criminal records. This is a big deal among those fighting against human trafficking of children. How can someone who is a victim also be a criminal at the same time… it just doesn’t make sense. After victims escape from human trafficking, AB 1940 ensures that they are not then victimized by a criminal record.
AB 1940 came about precisely because Catherine met Carissa and heard her story and, as part of CalSPAC’s ongoing advocacy work in the fight against human trafficking, started to make things happen in Sacramento.
AB 1940, sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman Jerry Hill, now has bipartisan support and seems likely to pass in the Assembly and, later, in the Senate. CalSPAC partnered with the Polaris Project, a national organization dedicated to combating human trafficking, in writing the bill’s language.
That’s what happens sometimes when you put a face to a problem. The problem seems more real…and more solvable.
So now maybe it’s a good time to set up a screening of Carissa in your community—and don’t forget to read her book, Runaway Girl, when it comes out in August!