EUGENE, Ore. -- A sex slavery survivor shared her inspiring story with a packed UO lecture hall Friday.
Carissa Phelps said she fell into sex slavery at the age of 12 after running away from a Fresno juvenile hall.
“When I was that young ... I remember thinking, 'I wish people knew so they could save me',” Carissa said.
Phelps said she was picked up by a man who offered her a ride; a moment that changed her life forever.
“I was raped the first time … when I was 12,” said Phelps. “… and then so many times after that I couldn't even count them before I was even 14.”
Phelps told the crowd that getting away from the man was not easy. She said that when she tried to escape, she wound up with another abuser.
“I ended up with a trafficker coming to "rescue" me from this other person … who then proceeded to sell me for the next 10 days,” Phelps said.
It may seem like it would be easy to get away, but Phelps said the psychological effects made it difficult for her.
“It’s confusing for someone to try to leave they end up staying because they feel like it's their only option and some of them stay ‘til death,” she said.
Audience members broke into tears while watching a documentary detailing Phelp's experience.
“Seeing the documentary … that really, really touched home,” said Connie Nguyen said while wiping away tears.
Phelps attributed her escape from sex slavery to a caring person she met along the way.
“A councilor at juvenile hall who said 'how did you get here?' … started making me believe I didn't belong there. And I'd say that's what saved me,” said Carissa.
Now 36 years old, Phelps is an attorney with an MBA, and a recently published author.
In her book, titled “Runaway Girl, she documents her experiences.
“I share this story to strengthen the voice of other survivors that are out there,” said Carissa.