Kerrville, Texas — The words “Not 4 Sale” stare up at Karla Solomon.
- Solomon was first trafficked at age 12
- She left, but eventually fell back into it
- She and her family are now creating a better life
They’re tattooed on her forearm, attached to broken chains that crawl up her arms.
Three years ago, she found herself sitting in a bathtub in a cheap hotel room. She had broken bones, was covered in bruises and infected with various STDs. Her pimp had just beaten her, for daring to close the adjoining door in her hotel room while he had sex with another woman.
"He told me to stand up, and when I did, he punched me so hard that he broke three of my ribs,” Solomon said. “I fell to the floor and peed on myself."
The 30-year-old mother of three had a $2,500-per-day quota that she had to meet, or she would be taken to “the pasture” to be beaten and raped as punishment. The first time Solomon was trafficked for sex, she was a 12-year-old runaway. Her mother and stepfather were addicted to crack, and she never knew her biological father.
While living on the streets, she met a 33-year-old woman who introduced her to marijuana and cigarettes. Then she started bringing Solomon to parties with other adults. The 12-year-old was raped at one of these parties, which is when she lost her virginity.
"She used that as a reason to manipulate me into sleeping with other people. 'Well, you've already lost your virginity, why not just sleep with this guy too?'" Solomon said the woman told her.
Eventually the cops returned her to her parents, but her drug usage and sexual activity continued. By 14, she was pregnant. She doesn’t know her oldest son’s father. She said her parents kicked her out when she refused to have an abortion. When her school asked her to take a leave of absence while pregnant, she dropped out of the ninth grade.
With nowhere else to go, Solomon ran away to Baton Rouge with a 23-year-old man. She said he resented her and her son, because the child was not his, and later tried to drown her in the bathtub in their shared mobile home.
"I was able to get away from the guy before he was able to wrap a belt around my neck and I ran down the street screaming,” Solomon said.
The man who saved her life that day, her drug dealer, eventually became her husband and father to her two younger kids. They moved to Texas, but she said they didn’t make any lifestyle changes. She served a year in prison for a stolen gun. After being released, the couple worked to create a better life for themselves and their new family of five. Her husband went to work on the oilfields, and Solomon became the general manager of a McDonalds and started taking college classes.
"I was doing so much. Everything was so good, but I was so overwhelmed,” Solomon said.
Soon Karla returned to her old ways.
"So I ran away,” Solomon said. “I ran away, because that's what I knew."
At 30, she met a man named Fat. She said he initially romanced her, taking her to go shopping and to the aquarium — a place she always wanted to go as a kid but never had anyone to take her. But Fat quickly introduced Solomon to another side of sex trafficking. Fat made her drive women around to different Johns. One night, when a woman returned without any money, he ordered Solomon to drive to a remote area and she learned what happens when the women didn’t make their daily quota.
"All I could see was his fists flying and I could hear her scream,” she said. Fat then got in the car, wiped the blood off of his hands and instructed her to drive away. “I had to leave her there and I don't know what happened to her."
Without his 16-year-old victim he left in the swamp, he needed someone new. He eventually sold Karla, beat her and raped her. She tried to escape multiple times, but Fat’s threats and brainwashing kept bringing her back. Once he texted her that if she didn’t return, he would take her then five-year-old daughter and do the same thing to her instead.
"There's like a trauma bond. I felt like I had to go back,” Solomon said. “It's so weird and disturbing but I felt like I had to go back, like I had to be there."
To keep her from returning to her pimp, her husband reported Solomon’s location to law enforcement. Due to outstanding probation violations, she was sent to jail for seven months. She credits this time incarcerated as one of the things that helped save her life.
But when she was released, moving on with her life and learning to adjust to being sober and making decisions for herself was too much. She attempted suicide, but was saved by a phone call from a new friend.
Solomon reestablished her relationship with God and joined a new church. And through it all, her husband and her children stuck by her side.
"It's been tough, but we are still together,” Solomon said. “We live in Kerrville together with our kids."
It took Karla nearly two decades to get clean, and get her life on track.
Now 18, her eldest son is about to begin classes at Louisiana State University and dreams of working for NASA. Her 8-year-old daughter recently led a march to end sex trafficking in San Antonio.
Solomon is busy running her own cleaning business and volunteering as an advocate for at-risk youth and sex trafficking survivors.
"The best feeling in the world is seeing someone else make that decision that ‘No, I'm not going back,’” Solomon said.
Solomon also just helped open a home for battered women in the Hill Country.
In February 2019, the man she knew as Fat, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for sex trafficking.