From Texas Public Radio:
Sex trafficking is the business of forcing victims to provide sex for profit. The traffickers are as skilled at evading the law as they are at finding new victims. Many might think this nightmare reality will never be part of their lives but the world of sex trafficking is not that far away. A warning for listeners – this story has raw language and describes acts of sexual violence that are not appropriate for all listeners.
Before the praise service begins on Sunday morning at the Cross Kingdom Church in Ingram Texas, there’s coffee and blueberry muffins.
The churchgoers greet each other with sincere solid hugs and big smiles. It’s not fancy. The church building used to be a bar. One attendee is wearing a bright red Make America Great Again cap. And in the middle of it all is Karla Solomon.
“I just felt so welcome and accepted. Not judged,” Solomon says.
As the service begins, Solomon takes her favorite seat in the middle of the front row.
It’s Christmas and there’s talk of miracles. And in many ways Solomon being here is a miracle in itself, because in 2016 she was kidnapped and forced into the world of sex trafficking.
And as she raises her arms in prayer, there are the tattoos that tell her story.
“This tattoo right here, the two two five with the five stars around it. That’s what he branded me with. He’s from Baton Rouge to two. Five is the area code down there,” Solomon says.
Solomon says her trafficker – allegedly Herman Henry Fox – used a tattoo gun kit to ink the bold numbers on her left hand. It was after she was rescued by police that other tattoos were added.
“I’ve got some Bible scripture, some Hebrew language, strength, freedom, broken chains, the chains, right?” Solomon says.
In black ink, shackles have been permanently drawn onto each wrist and up her arm are broken chains, symbolizing her restored freedom.
“Not just from the slavery but from all of the bondage,” she says. ” Everything that was holding me down is when I came home, all of the fear that I had.”
Solomon was dragged into the world of sex slavery in 2016 when she was living in Louisiana and she split up from her husband. She had three children at the time and says she needed to get away.
“…Which is selfish at the time, but it happened. Um, so I trusted this guy that I really, that I knew, he knew my family, he knew my husband went to school with us, um, it started out that I was just driving him and this other lady around and it didn’t take long for me to figure out what was going on, you know, he was basically selling her,” Solomon says.
A week into this arrangement that the woman wasn’t able to meet her daily quota and the trafficker told Solomon to drive them down a swamp road.
“He dragged her out of my car and pulled her to back by the trunk and he started beating her and I watched from my rear view mirror. And he made me leave her there,” Solomon says.
He then ordered Solomon to drive them to a hotel, they got a room and once inside things took a even darker turn.
“He was doing something on his phone,” Solomon says. “I wasn’t sure what turns out later I found out he was creating an ad on backpage.com. but I’m in the ad.”
“So he looks up and he said, ‘oh yeah, they’re going to like you because you’re a white girl.’ And at that point it dawned on me what was going on. So I made a run for the door and he tackled me,” she says.
He then raped her and for the next 54 days Solomon was caught in a world of forced sex. They traveled across Texas. Every two or three days he would set up shop in a new town.
“He started renting rooms and he would have people come to the room. Um, he would, um, he would post these ads on backpage. but he would talk to these guys online through like text messaging and stuff and set up, you know, all of these appointments. And there was times that he would have me tied to the bed with bed sheets other times after a while of this going on,” Solomon says.
The trafficker would also force Solomon to smoke meth.
“I didn’t want to do it. Um, so he wrestled me down to the ground and pinned my arms down on the floor and sat on top of my chest,” Solomon says. “And this is a really heavy man and at the time I was probably like 110 pounds, you know, and so he ended up forcing me to smoke it and eventually I was, I mean, it did not take long before I was very addicted to it.”
Solomon said she was sold to men 10 to 15 times a day. Every day, she had to make at least $1,500.
“…that he wanted me to make no matter how it was done. Every day, every day, seven days a week,” Solomon says.
And the trafficker was constantly on the lookout for new victims.
“He would sit at a Greyhound bus stations all the time. That was like his favorite thing to do. He would sit there and wait for a girl or boy to walk off from the crowd with just a backpack one that meant that they had no ride. And before you know it, they’re in the car and he used to sit there and say, oh yeah, that would be a good one. I could get her and as, as, as just if I could get her in the car that’s it’s over,” she says.
Solomon said she tried to escape but the trafficker told her if she did he would then kidnap her five-year-old daughter and sell her for sex.
Had it not been for that rescue, Solomon says she would still be a slave today. Freedom came when police electronically located her phone at a College Station hotel. The suspected trafficker, Fox was arrested. He’s awaiting trial in Brazos County Detention Center.
Solomon says she never thought anything like this could happen to her. She went from trusting someone in her time of need to being turned into their property and sold for sex.
“So I trusted him and he built up that trust to um, he did things like that to make me feel comfortable and make me feel like he really cared about me,” Solomon says.
Solomon is now back with her family. They have moved to Kerrville. She has received counseling and treatment for her ordeal. And she’s working on a local ministry to help other victims of sex trafficking.
“I work very closely with a lot of girls that have come out of this same thing,” Solomon says.
She says this thing that happened to her. It’s all around us. Even in small towns in Texas, like Kerrville.