The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY)

NEW LIFE MISSION

Fighting the good fight for women: Former federal agent looks to help victims of human traffickin­g

- By Roger Seibert rseibert@oneidadisp­atch.com

Oneida, N.Y. — Former federal agent Chris Carpenter has found a new mission in life by spending her retirement years taking on human traffickin­g at the local and national levels.

Carpenter recently retired from her job investigat­ing white-collar crime with the treasury department and has decided her life is best spent helping the helpless.

She is doing this by building Rahab Refuge Ministries, an outreach she founded in November 2020. It will combine education, rehabilita­tion, and a safe place to help victims of sexual crime recover and rebuild their lives.

“Rahab Rescue Ministries will combine holistic avenues of healing, including recovery, counseling, and spiritual help,” Carpenter, the president of the group, said.

The faith-based outreach will be headquarte­red in House of Hope, a building that will be located in Oneida or somewhere that has adequate space in Madison County.

Carpenter’s vision for House of Hope includes five bedrooms and a separate room for counseling sessions. It will be a safe environmen­t and will include multiple acres for horseback riding and

“God kept telling me to get involved with these women, he would not let me go, and so I started this ministry.”

— Chris Carpenter

other activities that promote healing.

Carpenter said she is raising funds and doing the legwork to launch the ministries very soon.

Carpenter’s work is a continuati­on of what her late husband, Jeffery, who ran youth ministry and later pastored Friendship Baptist Church, reflected in his life. She is a Christian and said her faith has influenced her decision to help human traffickin­g victims.

“When I retired I thought I would help lead women’s Bible studies and do bake sales,” she said. “God kept telling me to get involved with these women, he would not let me go, and so I started this ministry.”

Rahab Refuge is named after the biblical Rahab, a prostitute who hid Jewish spies before the Battle of Jericho.

“Rahab was someone who was trafficked,” Carpenter said. “She lived in the wall surroundin­g the city with other prostitute­s and was taken advantage of. She chose to listen to the right voice, and her life turned around. She went on to become part of Israel, part of the lineage of Christ.”

Carpenter wants women to hear the right voices. House of Hope, when built, will provide these voices. “The first step is to give them time to recover,” she said. “Then we will provide them with counselors, and later give them vocational training so they can move on with their lives.”

Carpenter is learning all she can through Wellspring, an establishe­d women’s shelter in Georgia. “I am being mentored by the Wellspring staff, and I send them all my press releases, fundraisin­g, educationa­l plans to them for their feedback,” she said. “It helps prepare for our ministry.”

Rahab Ministries has assembled a board to oversee operations once they get underway.

House of Hope will welcome women from all over the country through referrals. “There are only 1,800 beds for women who have escaped the sex trade in the country.”

Those beds are placed against the estimated 199,000 incidents of sex traffickin­g that occur each year in the United States.

“Human traffickin­g is a travesty, and America is the biggest consumer of it,” she said. “Too many people are unaware of the problem or are willfully ignorant of it. They don’t want to face it because it means they would have to do something about it.”

Along with housing Rahab ministries will focus on three areas of education: outreaches to the homeless, youth groups, and churches. That education includes ways to spot potential human traffickin­g.

“People can look for certain signs,” Carpenter said. “They include some obvious ones, like bruises and burn marks, and also more subtle ones like inappropri­ate dress in school, bragging about having a lot of money, gang symbols, and being tired all the time.”

Carpenter said strange and unusual relationsh­ips between older men and younger girls can be a sign of traffickin­g. The highest risk group are girls aged 1217 and then women aged 24 and older.

“I was in a second-hand store once when an older man came in to buy clothes for a young woman out in his car. He would not let her get out and said he was buying clothes so she could attend a concert. He said she was too sick to come in and look for herself. Someone ended up looking into it.”

Pornograph­y, Carpenter said, is the driving force behind sex crimes. “People watch something, and then it gets in their heads, and then they think about it and then they use underage girls to do it,” she said.

New York State has the fourth-largest number of trafficked women in the country.

Carpenter also said the recent Ghislaine Maxwell and Geoffrey Epstein cases have helped bring the problem to light. She also said securing the border with Mexico would help.

“Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with legal immigratio­n,” she said. “The problem is that most of these children crossing the border are without their parents. Anyone can use a piece of paper and go to Homeland security and say, “That’s my child,” and take custody of them.

“There are drug trafficker­s and human trafficker­s. Human beings are different from drugs. Drugs can only be used once, while women can be used over and over.”

Informatio­n on Rahab Refuge Ministries can be found at www.rahabrefug­eministrie­s.org or by calling (315) 725-2273.

 ?? PHOTO PROVIDED ?? Former federal treasury agent Chris Carpenter is building a ministry to help combat sex traffickin­g through counseling, rehabilita­tion and education in the Oneida area.
PHOTO PROVIDED Former federal treasury agent Chris Carpenter is building a ministry to help combat sex traffickin­g through counseling, rehabilita­tion and education in the Oneida area.
 ?? PHOTO PROVIDED ?? A look at the logo.
PHOTO PROVIDED A look at the logo.

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