Trafficking, domestic violence similarities crucial for community to understand

Survivors of both types of violence encounter isolation, fear, loss of control, loss of freedom, many categories of abuse

SAN ANTONIO – Domestic violence and human trafficking are listed as separate issues, yet they are closely related in a number of ways.

“I’ve been trafficked twice — as a child and as an adult,” said Karla Solomon.

At age 12 and again at 29, Solomon was moved across states, being sold for sex by people she thought loved and cared for her.

"Pampering me, talking to me, finding out my hopes and dreams and aspirations," she said about her second trafficker.

"He told me he loved me," she said.

But love turned into control and abuse.

“He takes me to a hotel and he places an ad on Backpage. I run for the door and he holds me and tells me sweet things about — (saying) he needs me and loves me — about how I just need to do it one time until he finds another girl. And I do it, but then I have to do it again and again and again. Before I know it, I have a $1,500 a day quota that I have to meet every day,” Solomon said.

“The power wheel that has been discovered in the domestic violence world is actually used in the human trafficking world to explain to survivors what people are doing in order to gain control over them,” said Dr. Julie Strentzsch, chief program officer at Roy Maas Youth Alternatives in San Antonio.

On the Roy Maas campus is a new shelter called La Puerta, which is specifically for children who have been trafficked or at high risk for trafficking.

“The only world they know is a world of violence. And it is hard for these individuals to get support,” Strentzsch said.

“People need to understand that I was put in a situation that I felt like I had nobody and no other choice. And that even if I left, where was I gonna go?” Solomon said.

Roy Maas figures show the average trafficking victim tries to leave five to 10 times before truly breaking ties. Family Violence Prevention Services reports domestic violence survivors try to leave an average of seven times.

At the Roy Maas shelter's free counseling center, survivors of abuse and survivors of trafficking are working on similar recoveries from mental, emotional, physical, sexual and financial abuse.

Solomon escaped her trafficker, who is now serving a 30-year prison sentence.

She is still recovering from her lifetime of trauma, but she just opened her own ministry called Mercy Gate, which is helping other survivors like herself.

Solomon also works with organizations, such as Roy Maas, to let others know freedom is possible with no strings attached.

Strentzsch said many trafficking victims come from unstable homes, but some are pulled away from loving families with a steady income.

She wants families to look out for the following red flags in their children:

  • Being secretive
  • Unexplained money
  • Expensive gifts
  • Clothing changes, more provocative, more makeup
  • Older boyfriends, not age-appropriate
  • Hygiene dropping
  • Depression

If you or someone you know is enduring abuse or trafficking, look at KSAT’s list of resources.

Trafficking survivors, or friends and family, can call Roy Maas Youth Alternatives at 210-340-8077.

For domestic violence services, call Family Violence Prevention Services at 210-733-8810 or the Bexar County Family Justice Center at 210-631-0100.

About the Authors

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.

Dale Keller is senior news photographer at KSAT-12.

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