SAN ANTONIO – For months, she was forced into the sex trade by one of the most dangerous traffickers in the state, if not the country.
Karla Solomon barely survived months of torture and what is known as modern slavery.
Now that she’s safe, she has dedicated her life to telling her devastating but important story in hopes of saving others from the terrors of sex trafficking.
Solomon was trafficked twice in her life, once as a child and once as an adult.
“About 2-years-old, I was taken from my mother. My mother was a drug addict. I was being put with people I did not know and my grandmother believed I was molested at a very young age,” she said.
At 12-years-old, she met a 33-year-old woman who she thought cared about her.
“She introduced me to smoking weed and doing drugs and introduced me to older men and started taking me to parties,” Solomon said. “I ended up losing my virginity at one of those parties and not by choice. Someone took advantage of me.”
Soon, the woman began selling Solomon to men in exchange for drugs. It lasted for a few months until she broke free.
“But that started a cycle that whenever I would run away I would have survival sex to have a place to stay or full a meal. For a chicken nugget meal at McDonalds I would have to have sex with somebody,” Solomon said.
Later in life, at 29-years-old, she fell into the hands of a dangerous man.
“I met Herman Fox. I did not know his name was Herman Fox. I was introduced to him as Fat. Within days he was taking me to the mall, buying be beautiful things. He was completely doting on me, taking me to the most expensive hotels. Spending the whole night pampering me, talking to me, finding out my hopes and dreams and aspirations,” she said.
She believed she was in a loving relationship.
One day, he took her on a drive. During that hours-long ride, Solomon said he sent women into motels to have sex with men, and took the money they brought back.
“My Prince Charming turned into a monster like that,” she said, snapping her fingers.
"He takes me to a hotel and he places an ad on Backpage. I run for the door and he holds me and kisses me and tells me sweet things 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 and before I know it I have a $1500 a day quota that I have to meet every day," Solomon said.
He took her from Texas to Louisiana, to Colorado, where she finally called for help.
She called a friend, who is now her husband, and told him everything. He called the police and Solomon tried to run.
“I start getting text messages on my phone from Fat, telling me I better come back,” Solomon said. “He sent me a video. It was where my daughter gets on and off the bus. He said I’m gonna take her, and I’m gonna do the same thing to her.”
Solomon wants the public to understand these types of threats, constant abuse, and isolation from other people is what makes it hard or even impossible for victims to leave their traffickers.
Solomon is proof of a statistic that shows a trafficking victim will try to leave between 5 and 10 times before fully breaking free.
She said after Fox threatened to harm her daughter, she went back to him and he drove her to College Station.
“It was move-in week at A&M and that’s a big attraction for traffickers. Because there’s a lot of men in town that have a lot of money because they’re putting their boys off to college, or girls. And there’s a lot of new college boys who want to have parties. My quota goes up to $2500. This goes on for about 7 days,” she said.
Little did she know a multi-state investigation was happening, and police caught up to them, arresting Fox for the first time.
“The police took me to the hospital. I had STDs, I had broken ribs, I was 100 pounds, I was addicted to methamphetamine, they diagnosed me with complex PTSD,” Solomon said.
At that point police were able to arrest Fox on a marijuana charge but still had to build a case against him for any trafficking charges. He was eventually arrested across state lines and took a plea deal. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison without parole.
Back in Texas, Solomon struggled with severe PTSD and even tried to take her own life. She said a friend stepped in, helping her realize she had a bigger purpose.
Her trauma suddenly became her recovery.
“We started a ministry together. We just opened our first safe house for girls just like me. We’re looking to expand,” Solomon said proudly.
At 33, she now lives with her loving husband and three children working daily to save others like her.
Solomon runs Mercy Gate Ministries while doing speaking engagements across the region.
She works with Roy Maas Youth Alternatives in their new shelter La Puerta, which houses trafficking victims. She presents to law enforcement agencies, and even airport staff explaining how they can increase efforts to combat trafficking.
“The one thing I still get emotional about is helping other girls and boys. There’s this one girl I’ve been working with and she’s left and came back, and left and came back and I get it. And she’s finally made the decision she’s not going back. And that’s just the most beautiful,” she paused as tears welled in her eyes, “because I did that.”
Even her body is now a symbol of her story. Tattooed down her arms are chains that at the end are broken. A tag at the bottom says “Not for Sale.”
"The broken chains signify that yes I have been in slavery but I broke them. I broke free in more ways than one."
Solomon said anyone can fall into the hands of traffickers, including boys and men.
She said many traffickers target people online, starting relationships and building trust. She wants people to be aware of who they may be communicating with and reach out if they run into trouble.
“If you’re in a situation you don’t feel safe or you feel like nobody loves you, there are people that you can connect with at places like these that really do care and don’t want anything back from you,” she said.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline is (888) 373-7888.
Roy Maas Youth Alternatives staff members can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the crisis line (210) 340-8090. The daytime main office number where counselors and case workers can be reached is (210) 340-8077. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the signs of trafficking, visit https://sharedhope.org/takeaction/.