recaps of the top 'ask me anything' interviews from reddit and more...
After a five-month search, I found two of my kidnapped friends who had been forced into marriage in China. For the past six years I've been a full-time volunteer with a grassroots organisation to raise awareness of human trafficking - AMA!

You might remember my 2016 AMA about my three teenaged friends who were kidnapped from their hometown in Vietnam and trafficked into China. They were "lucky" to be sold as brides, not brothel workers.

One ran away and was brought home safely; the other two just disappeared. Nobody knew where they were, what had happened to them, or even if they were still alive.

I gave up everything and risked my life to find the girls in China. To everyone's surprise (including my own!), I did actually find them - but that was just the beginning.

Both of my friends had given birth in China. Still just teenagers, they faced a heartbreaking dilemma: each girl had to choose between her daughter and her own freedom.

For six years I've been a full-time volunteer with 'The Human, Earth Project', to help fight the global human trafficking crisis. Of its 40 million victims, most are women sold for sex, and many are only girls.

We recently released an award-winning documentary to tell my friends' stories, and are now fundraising to continue our anti-trafficking work. You can now check out the film for $1 and help support our work at http://www.sistersforsale.com

We want to tour the documentary around North America and help rescue kidnapped girls.

PROOF: You can find proof (and more information) on the front page of our website at: http://www.humanearth.net

I'll be here from 7am EST, for at least three hours. I might stay longer, depending on how many questions there are :)

Fire away!

--- EDIT ---

Questions are already pouring in way, way faster than I can answer them. I'll try to get to them all - thanks for you patience!! :)

BIG LOVE to everyone who has contributed to help support our work. We really need funding to keep this organisation alive. Your support makes a huge difference, and really means a lot to us - THANK YOU!!

(Also - we have only one volunteer here responding to contributions. Please be patient with her - she's doing her best, and will send you the film/book/etc as soon as she can!) :)

--- EDIT #2 ---

Wow the response here has just been overwhelming! I've been answering questions for six hours and it's definitely time for me to take a break. There are still a ton of questions down the bottom I didn't have a chance to get to, but most of them seem to be repeats of questions I've already answered higher up.

THANK YOU so much for all your interest and support!!!


67
questions
59,147
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May 28th 2019
interview date
redmoqorro

You mention being a full time volunteer. Does volunteer mean that you don't get paid?

I ask this because I think I would have a very fulfilling life doing something similar to what you are doing, but I can only do so if I'm getting paid, or at least being provided lodging/food.

To OP or anyone else that does humanitarian work: any suggestions on how to help humanity if you can't afford to work for free?

edit: Might be important to clarify that I don't have a degree. When I look at openings for various organizations they are only accepting trained doctors/teachers/etc. I don't have a degree but I do have a good work ethic and I learn new skills quickly.


21BenRandall

That's correct - I've never paid for this work. I do take a daily living allowance to cover my most basic living costs, which averages less than $25/day.

(The amount I take is ultimately up to me - our work is perpetually underfunded, and I choose to take the bare minimum so I can continue the work as long as possible. Everyone else on the team is a part-time volunteer).

I couldn't afford to work for free for six years, either. This work has been made possible only by individual donors around the world who believe in what we're doing.

Unfortunately, we still have to fundraise ourselves, which takes quite a lot of time and energy we could be spending elsewhere

Wittyandpithy

A tough question, but do you have any ideas on how we can attack the demand side of this? As in, what can be done to reduce the number of people who pay for forced marriages?


21BenRandall

Awareness is key. A lot of the men buying these women - and funding the entire system - are actually ignorant of what they're doing, and what a devastating effect they're having on these girls and their families.

We've had the documentary translated into the local languages - Vietnamese, Hmong (the girls' own language), and Chinese - so that it can make a difference where it is needed most.

Unfortunately, we're limited as to what we can do with the Chinese version, since one of my friends still remains in China with the man who bought her

[deleted]

[deleted]


21BenRandall

The whole process actually turned out to be much more difficult than I'd expected.

Some of the traffickers had become aware of my presence during the search, and we lost all communication with one of my friends just before she was supposed to be rescued.

Based on what she'd said before we lost contact, it seemed very likely that she was being relocated to be sold again - as a bride or prostitute, we didn't know.

By that time I felt a huge responsibility for the safety of both girls, and emotionally, that was the most difficult part of the process.

It was really tough, not knowing what had happened to her, and not knowing if we'd ever find out

Turbo_Offender

How did you find your friends?


21BenRandall

Luck and persistence :)

It's a long story, but here's the short version:

When I first went back to Asia, it seemed impossible. The only hope I had was to identify my friends' traffickers, and to trace my friends' path across the border and through the trafficking network.

Fortunately, one of my friends was able to access a phone in China and call her family in Vietnam, so I then had a phone number to work with.

Even after I was able to contact the girls, though, they had absolutely no idea where they were. They'd never been to school, couldn't read any Chinese, and had no idea how big China was.

It was a long process of narrowing down their location using any clues they could give me, then trying a find a time and place they could safely meet me

85_squats

Siriyakoon 'Bung' Siriboon is a young girl from australia who went missing. I've always suspected she is a victim of the same human trafficking, she had an online presence in video games and much contact to the online world. Do you have much to do with catching human trafficking on the internet? If not, would you consider delving into that?


21BenRandall

Although it was sometimes very difficult to live through, the story of my friends is an extremely powerful one which perfectly illustrates many facets of human trafficking.

For the moment, our focus is on using that story to raise awareness of what a complex issue human trafficking really is.

There are other (and better-funded) anti-trafficking organisations which specialise on the technological side of trafficking - THORN is probably the best known example

Wilburisadog

I traveled to Sapa region (Nam Cang) in December and find it interesting that the Hmong people are targeted in this way. Are there qualities that the Hmong or other groups of people frequently have in common that leave them at a greater risk of trafficking? I typically think of trafficking happening in high-volume cities but obviously that’s not always the case.

Also, is there anything people can do as travelers/tourists to help or hurt these communities? We stayed in a homestay with primarily Red Dzao employees and I couldn’t quite decide if I should’ve even been present in their community or if it was helping provide employment, even though the travel company boasted ethical practices.


21BenRandall

Apart from being generally poor, poorly educated, and living in remote communities with little access to legal recourse or support services, one factor that makes the Vietnamese Hmong at particular risk is the Hmong custom of marriage by abduction - which can be considered a form of human trafficking in itself, but also facilitates the cross-border trade.

You second question is also a good one. The ethnic minority groups are often exploited by the majority Kinh people. If you're visiting one of the communities, it's far better to book with a representative of that community - otherwise you might well be taking advantage of those communities.

In Sapa, for example, I would highly recommend trekking with an organisation like hmong-family.com - which is a fantastic little company owned and operated by local Hmong people

blueforrule

How did you, a white Australian male (I'm guessing here from your accent), make friends with a group of Vietnamese teenaged girls who were later trafficked to China?


21BenRandall

In 2010, I spent three months teaching English in Sapa, Vietnam.

The girls were from nearby villages and would come to town to sell handicrafts to tourists, and take them trekking to their villages.

There was a group of 10 girls who used to sit on the corner of my street. I saw them every day, we became friends, and stayed in touch on Facebook.

Within 20 months, no less than 5 of those girls were trafficked in separate incidents. I first found out when one of the remaining girls messaged me on Facebook about one of the kidnappings

Baelim

What kind of people were your friends captors?


21BenRandall

The trade in women is being driven by a shortage of women in China, as a result of the "one-child" policy.

Before I began this work, I'd imagined that it was wealthier Chinese men who were buying the girls, but it was just the opposite.

If you're a wealthy Chinese man, you can find a Chinese bride. The men buying the trafficked girls tend to be otherwise unmarriageable - they might be poor, older, physically unattractive, or all of the above.

In the case of my friends, they were remarkably ordinary guys. One was a taxi driver. Another was a factory worker with an injured leg

raengsen

Have you had any kind of interaction with the "buyers"?

I'm from (partly) rural china and still can't believe all the things that can still happen in such an otherwise beautiful and mostly developed country...

and what kind of people where those bad guys??


21BenRandall

Oddly enough, yes. I did meet the "husband" of one friend, and with my other friend, I didn't meet the "husband", but some of his family.

They didn't strike me as "bad guys" at all - they were remarkably normal people, and seemed largely unaware of what they'd done, and the effects it had.

In the cases of my two friends, the "husbands" had actually been tricked into believing that they were paying a bride price for a Chinese-born girl, rather than buying a trafficked girl from Vietnam.

Having said that, they seem to have been given very dubious explanations as to why the girls couldn't speak Chinese, and were perhaps wilfully ignorant.

When the girls learned to speak a little Chinese and confronted their "husbands" with the truth, the "husbands" didn't really seem to care either. They'd paid for the girls and felt that gave them ownership

SpoonFed276

What kind of precautions do the kidnappers take to ensure the victims do not escape? 6 years is a long time.


21BenRandall

The girls are often threatened with murder and sale into prostitution unless they behave.

In the case of my friends, they were sold into distant regions of a country where they couldn't speak or understand the language, and had no means of getting help or finding their way home. Often that's enough to stop them trying to escape.

At times, the girls are physically locked up in the homes of their "husbands"

stevo002

How is the local awareness both in China and Vietnam about the situation of child brides? And what generally is the response of authorities you came across on the issue?


21BenRandall

The age of consent in China is 14 years old (though I believe there was some talk of changing this).

My friends were 15/16 when they were kidnapped and forced into marriage. By Western standards, at that age, it's a child bride. By local standards, it's not.

Adult Chinese men have been caught with trafficked "brides" as young as 12 years old. There was a case ~2yr ago when a Chinese "husband" was caught with a heavily-pregnant 12yo who had been trafficked from Vietnam

Doofbags

What happened to their children? Thank you for all the amazing work you do.


21BenRandall

Thanks :)

Initially, both of my friends were so desperate to come home they were willing to leave their babies behind in China, with their "husbands".

Ultimately, one found she couldn't do it, changed her mind, and chose to stay in China for the sake of her child.

My other friend did leave her child - which might sound like a horrible thing to do, but really shows what a desperate situation these girls are in.

(Keep in mind, too, that they were still only teenagers at the time!)

rianujnas

Did you get help from Chinese officials?


21BenRandall

I approached the authorities at one point to find out what support they would be able to provide, but they wanted the full details of my friends before they would tell me anything.

It was unclear what would happen - to my friends, to their daughters, and to their "husbands". My friend was afraid of what might happen and, at her request, I didn't pursue the matter any further

sweetsummerchild97

Has your life been threatened in anyway because of the work you do?


21BenRandall

Yes, it has. I've received two death threats, and one in direct connection with my efforts to find and rescue my friends.

Oddly enough, it came from the family of one of the girls I was trying to help. She was desperate to leave China, but her family did not want her back. It was really sad, and only made her situation more difficult

Liquid_fartz

How are you friends' mental health now? What sorts (if any) of counselling/therapy will they receive?


21BenRandall

That's a good question.

I supported one of my friends through a period of rehabilitation in Vietnam, as part of which I introduced her to a psychiatrist and encouraged them to speak regularly.

It was clear that my friend had been through a great deal - she'd been kidnapped, held prisoner, threatened with all sorts of things, forced into marriage and motherhood against her will, then left that child behind to reclaim her own life.

In her culture, however, people tend not to be very expressive of their mental state, and the idea of her talking about any of these things to a stranger was a completely alien one to her.

It was really difficult to even get her to go along - and, sadly, I don't think she was sufficiently open to the process to benefit much from it

wing03

As a western born Asian, I heard stories and caution from older relatives about not traveling and taking young children there. How much danger is actually there for anyone to be kidnapped and sold into labour or marriage?


21BenRandall

Anyone can be trafficked, and victims come from a broad cross-section of society.

Having said that, the vast majority of victims come from the most powerless segments of society - the remote, the poor, the poorly educated.

In general, your chances of being trafficked as a tourist are very low.

gbsolo12

How old were they when they were taken?


21BenRandall

Most of my friends in that area don't actually know their ages. They're often born at home in the villages to illiterate parents, and many don't have birth certificates.

From the best information I could find, it seems most of them were 15 or 16 when they were kidnapped

12INCHVOICES

Sorry if I'm way behind on this story, but this is the first I've heard about it. Do you have any published pieces about your story that I can read? If not, please consider writing about this, it sounds like an incredible story!


21BenRandall

Thank you :)

We've just released the film - you can now check it out for $1 at sistersforsale.com if you're interested.

There's a lot to the story we couldn't fit into the film, so I'm now expanding the story as a book - it's going really well, and hopefully will be finished in a few months!

The story is also told in bits and pieces on my blog at humanearth.net

SlashBolt

What can I do(besides donating) to aid in combating human trafficking?


21BenRandall

Our organisation is team of volunteers from all over the world who, at some point, all asked the same question. They're an awesome group of people. They've each found a place within the organisation to fit their skills and interests, and give whatever time they can. If you're interested to get onboard, you should get in touch with Katie at [thehumanearthproject@gmail.com](mailto:thehumanearthproject@gmail.com) :)

doomlite

What are some red flags that someone has been trafficked?


21BenRandall

That Polaris link /u/Molikins shared is a good one. There's really nothing to add to that.

Except the Liam Neeson thing, obviously. I can't imagine how they left that off the list

Netsphere_Seeker

What did the two girls decide to do with their lives? Stay with their children or freedom? Have you had more contact with them afterwards?


21BenRandall

One of my friends stayed in China, and one left.

I spent seven weeks in Sapa supporting her through her rehabilitation - helping her find a job, giving her support to counselling etc.

While her family was supportive of her return, she received a lot of judgement and blame from her community. After 2.5 years she chose to return to China, though not to her "husband" and child.

I lost contact with her, but remain in contact with my other friend.

pr0digalnun

How do YOU keep your mental health intact? This has to be incredibly taxing on your psyche. Or does the reward of doing something so fundamentally important overcome the tragedy somehow?


21BenRandall

That's a good question. This work has involved constant exposure to the darkest sides of human nature, and it's difficult to remain unaffected by that. It has certainly shaped the way I see the world and other people, and not necessarily for the better.

I was also involved in situations where my own decisions had major lasting impacts on other people's lives, and - whether I believe I did the right thing or not - it's hard not to wonder what might have happened if I'd done things differently.

There have been several times in the past few years where I've been on the verge of giving up this work, but I believe it's important work, and whatever I've gone through is nothing compared to what countless girls are going through every day. If I can help them, I will

[deleted]

Why would they need or want to traffic people for marriage?


21BenRandall

/u/alemfi and /u/I_Zeig_I have got this right. After 35 years with the "one-child" policy, China has the world's largest gender imbalance - there are now an estimated 35 million men in China for whom no women exist, driving a massive trade in girls and women from neighbouring countries

Chazmer87

If 5 girls have been kidnapped from that village - aren't the villagers organised against these gangs?


21BenRandall

Unfortunately, the opposite is true - the traffickers are organised against the villagers. They often use insiders within the local community, who sell their own friends and family members to the traffickers

MrC99

What was the end result for each girl? What kind of lives are they living now?


21BenRandall

Unfortunately, once the girls have been taken, there aren't many good options remaining to them.

I was able to offer my friends the freedom to choose what they wanted to do - but even so, it was a choice between a life in a foreign country with a "husband" who regarded her as little more than a uterus, and her own society, where returned girls are judged harshly, victim-blaming is rife, and they might not be able to lead a normal life again.

I wish I could have given them better options, but I couldn't.

Ultimately, one stayed with her child, and one left

ROEEmen

How did your friends react when you found them?


21BenRandall

There were a lot of mixed emotions. It was their first real contact in years from a world they'd lost contact with. They were really excited and happy to have the opportunity to go home - but, with the daughters in the picture, it became much more complicated

worldtrooper

Did you get help/asked for help from the bluedragon organisation?


21BenRandall

I was working closely with Blue Dragon's founder, Michael Brosowski, throughout my investigation. He's an amazing guy and I couldn't have done it without him.

Blue Dragon rescued one of the three friends, and went to China to rescue one of the others, but her story became more complicated and unfortunately they weren't able to.

We're planning to use the documentary to support both Blue Dragon and Alliance Anti-Trafic, another amazing organisation which rescues kidnapped girls

dabigfattapatta

How do you go about freeing victims of trafficking?

I heard that most organisations end up paying traffickers off which solves the immediate problem but unfortunately will likely not stop future trafficking. This being said, I can't think of any other feasible ways solutions so I am interested for your answer. Thanks!


21BenRandall

It wasn't a matter of paying off their traffickers, and I don't agree with that as a solution. In any case, just because these men had bought the girls, that didn't mean they'd be willing to resell them.

The rescues we organised were a matter of identifying a time and place when the girls could get away from their "husbands", if only momentarily. We could do the rest.

[deleted]

Some people think human trafficking only happens in “poor countries” and it doesn’t happen in “well developed countries.” What would you say too those who think like that?


21BenRandall

One of the anti-trafficking groups (I can't remember which off the top of my head, unfortunately) has a map on their website on which they pin human trafficking convictions. More than anything, that really brought home to me how rampant human trafficking is - even in sleepy little first-world towns, where you'd never suspect it.

It's a monstrous industry and it really is everywhere, but so much of it happens behind closed doors, and it's easy to be unaware of it. That's why I believe awareness is so crucial to fighting human trafficking

yax01

For all the people wondering why a young teenage girl would go along with this, let's put yourself in her shoes for one minute.

  1. You are a young girl with little knowledge of the world outside your tiny village and you are now kidnapped and don't know what's going to happen to you. You don't know if you're going to live or die.
  2. The kidnapper tells you that you need to follow his directions exactly. If you run away, he will find you and kill you.
  3. You are handed to a man (a. you don't speak his language. b. you didn't know you were sold) and you are told to do what this man says or the man will tell your kidnapper about your disobedient and he will come back and punish you. Plus, let's take it a step further, he will go back to your village and kill your entire family.
  4. You care about your little sisters and little brothers, you care about your parents. Do you dare defy this man's words? How do you know you can trust the man you've been given to? Who can you tell? Who's on your side, who are the spies that are working for your kidnappers. You are among strangers, how do you know you can trust anyone?

Is your best choice to stay quiet and try to survive, or take a risk and possibly get severely punished?


21BenRandall

Apart from the "kill your entire family" part, which is a little extreme, this is a fairly accurate description of what these girls go through and how they seem to feel

MindfulOD

Hello. With all the curent cameras and civilian monitoring in China, do you think the implementation of the social credit system would help aid narrowing down these predators?


21BenRandall

Apparently China's increasing surveillance and implementation of the social credit scheme is already having a major impact on brothels. I think it's also likely to affect bride trafficking, but that remains to be seen

Krisko125

Didn't you make this AMA a few days ago? What happened?


21BenRandall

Yes, I did one last week but accidentally posted it to /r/ama instead of /r/iama - it hit the top of the group there, but it's not such a big group! So I thought it was best to do another one here to reach more people

tfcjames

Sorry if this is a stupid question, I have never used www.indiegogo.com before.

How can I donate more than $1 and get the documentary? If I choose the documentary then I can only donate $1. If I donate a custom amount, then I can't get the documentary. Do I need to make 2 separate transactions if I want to give more than $1 and get the documentary?


21BenRandall

You will receive the documentary, no matter how much you donate

fluffspeed

How much of the world do you focus on as an individual?

Does the organization work globally?

What are the worst trafficking areas?

Thanks for doing the AMA and for volunteering for a good thing.


21BenRandall

Thank you.

My friends' story is a remarkable one, which perfectly illustrates many of the nuances of human trafficking. For the moment, we're focusing on using that story to raise awareness of the broader human trafficking crisis.

Certain areas of Asia, Africa and the Middle East are recognised as human trafficking hot spots, but in reality, human trafficking needs to be stopped wherever it is.

If you're interested in more information, the US government publishes an annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report with details on where trafficking is most rampant

keelah_se_lai

Were your friends rescued eventually? Were they able to take their daughters with them? How are they now? Your job is amazing! Thank you for being there for those who do not have a voice and are suffering a horrible fate.


21BenRandall

Thank you :)

The story was a complicated one. We organised rescues for both girls, but neither went according to plan.

Ultimately, one girl escaped and returned home to her family, while the other was unable to leave her child and chose to remain in China.

If you're interested to learn more, I'd suggest checking out the film - it tells the story better than I can here!

SailingPatrickSwayze

How do you mess around in China without getting arrested?


21BenRandall

We posed as tourists, shooting the documentary guerrilla-style with a tiny, two-person crew and the bare minimum of equipment

24applesforme

Human trafficking is terrible but I feel like something about this guy, his organization, and the way he talks about this feels so scripted. I’ve checked out the stuff and haven’t really found much information about his organization and the only other Reddit posts he has is just him promoting and asking for donations. Has this story been vetted and checked out by anyone else? $50 for the documentary soundtrack? Sheesh


21BenRandall

We're not here to create and sell products; we're just offering what tokens of appreciation we can to thank people for supporting our anti-trafficking work.

(You might also have noticed that the rewards are cumulative. It's not $50 for a soundtrack - it's $50 for a soundtrack and whole series of items from the lower-priced rewards.)

And yes, right now we are very focused on getting donations. We haven't run a fundraising campaign or received any significant funding for 2.5 years. In that time we've been working constantly.

And yes, /u/24applesforme , I do live on $25/day. As you might be aware, that's not a lot of money - it's not even enough for me to be able to afford rent in my own country (Australia). I'm currently living in a one-room apartment in Asia so I can continue this work.

And yes, anyone who solicits funds should be held accountable. So please, vet the story.

PlumbumGus

You’re an absolute hero! What were some of the key ways you were able to track them down? Was it mostly digital and internet? Or was it more grass roots, door knocking and talking to people?


21BenRandall

Thank you. Once I had my friends' phone numbers and we were able to speak, it was largely a matter of gathering any clues they were able to give me, gradually narrowing down their location on a map, then working to find a rendezvous.

It was a complicated and time-consuming process, given the language barriers and the fact that the girls had no idea where they were

cormac596

Of its 40 million victims, most are women

Would you mind elaborating on the human trafficking of men? I'm assuming that it's probably mostly boys, not men, but I don't know.


21BenRandall

Of the estimated 40 million global victims, there are an estimated 12 million men and boys.

In terms of sex trafficking, I assume there are many more boys than men, but don't forget labour trafficking. There are millions of people around the world still being forced into slavery

Kit_nr

What the fuck is wrong with China and their human trafficking?!


21BenRandall

I happened to get involved in anti-trafficking work in China because that's where my friends were.

In reality, though, it's not just China - human trafficking is much, much bigger than you might realise, and it's happening all over the world

intelligent_chimp

Why can't the trafficked people use the internet and say they're kidnapped? Sorry.. this might be a stupid question, but I had this for a while


21BenRandall

This is legitimate. It has been known to happen that a girl has been able to access a computer and made initial contact from China via email, though it's very rare in my experience.

The community I've been working with (the Vietnamese Hmong) tend to have low levels of both literacy and computer literacy, and once sold, they're unlikely to have access to a computer.

Lauris024

How exactly do you get these statistics? 40 million kidnapped people seems too much, by a big margin. That's 20x my country's population.


21BenRandall

Yes, that's right. 40.3 million people currently living as victims of human trafficking is the most recent estimate by the Global Slavery Index. It really is that big an issue.

ProjectionPerfection

Hi Ben! It's Dave from SWIFF. I'm so glad to see so much traction for the amazing work you're doing. Keep being awesome, mate. Everyone should watch this film (only $1?!?). How has the film tour and distribution gone?


21BenRandall

Hey Dave! Great to hear from you, and thank you :)

Because our priority is raising awareness, we decided to take an unusual path with the film. After our Asian premiere (we picked up another award!) I wanted to make it available online as soon as possible, so here we are - only $1 :)

For the next few months I'll be focused on finishing the book, and if we can get enough funding to tour we'll likely be starting in North America towards the end of the year

Dristig

Why aren’t you a registered non-profit? I generally have trouble giving to groups that set up an internet donation page before getting their NP tax number.


21BenRandall

That's a reasonable comment. As /u/ClydeBsFinalRepose mentioned, we partner with GoPhilanthropic in the US, and are still working on getting non-profit status in other regions

MsNewKicks

As an Asian-American woman, this hits close to home since it's happening in my ancestral homeland. Will be making a donation, thank you for what you're doing. My question is while you were looking for your friends, were you ever in any immediate danger from people who knew what you were trying to do?


21BenRandall

Thank you.

During the search for my friends, their traffickers became aware of my presence, and meeting the girls did become risky. Fortunately nothing happened

jpGrind

would you say most people in the world are completely oblivious to the depths and pervasiveness of human trafficking?


21BenRandall

Oblivious, you mean? Absolutely. That's why awareness is so important, and why I do this work

biscaynebystander

What's your day job?


21BenRandall

Since 2013 I've been working full-time with this anti-trafficking organisation. Previously, I worked as a documentary filmmaker (that's why I chose to film my investigation to help raise awareness of this issue)

Jonbrisby

this is not a valid AMA. There is NO proof that this person does this.

He posted a link to a website.

THAT IS ALL. How has reddit verified this person?

There is no image of this person holding an AMA sign, there is nothing to say this person is even real and not some account accessed by 20 different people. Linking to a website, ANYONE CAN DO THAT. This is not proof.


21BenRandall

The website is question does happen to have this written in all-caps across the top of the front page: " JOIN BEN'S LIVE Q&A AT 7AM EST ON 28TH MAY, AT REDDIT.COM/R/IAMA"

Not anyone can do that

Imbeefy

Why do you keep spamming AMAs and deleting them if they don't get enough traction?


21BenRandall

I've never deleted an AMA. I did one in 2016, and one last week at /r/ama - which got to the top of the group, but it's not a big group. I wanted to come here to reach a wider audience

JimAtEOI

Why is this only about China?

Why do Chinese men only want Vietnamese women?

Your story is more impactful in the West given that the women would have to leave their "daughters", but why do both women have "daughters", given that daughters are less favored in China, and given how these men don't sound like the kind that would prefer daughters?


21BenRandall

It's not only Vietnamese women being kidnapped into China - they also take huge numbers of women from China's other neighbours, including Myanmar (Burma), Laos, North Korea, etc.

The girls had daughters by chance. Though the "one-child" policy has now been relaxed, it didn't apply to them, as they never had any legal status in China

/u/bunker_man covered the rest of this

xSTAYxFARxAWAYx

PICS OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN. Can you provide any proof?


21BenRandall

It's good to be skeptical, but do your research. Google isn't that complicated.

https://humanearth.net/project/sisters-for-sale/

RayStevensonPunisher

Where is the METOOMOVEMENT on worldwide female trafficking?

Oh yeah, they only care about trivial crap, like actresses who are ASKED to give a BJ for a part in a crappy movie...


21BenRandall

When you take a close look at the reasons why so many girls are being forced into marriage and prostitution, so much of it comes down to the way that women are valued. Girls and women are trafficked into sex work in our own countries, for the same reasons. The #metoo movement is far more important than you may realise

xaos9

Would you imagine it to be substantially more difficult to find your friends if they were sold as brothel workers? I’d imagine them to be much more tightly surveilled in that case.


21BenRandall

Yes - I was fortunate to have found them, and to have been able to meet with them, as it was. If they had been sold into brothels, it's likely we never would have seen or heard from them again

hotellonely

Are you a Chinese or.. ?

Edit: sorry, just checked your page and found out your identity, your story and the stuff..

Human trafficking is terrible. Not only just Vietnamese would be trafficked, but also Chinese girls too. Being kidnapped and then sold into some sort of poor village is also everybody's worries here in China too. Those traffickers are one of the reasons that I don't think that death penalty should be erased on earth.

AND I DEEPLY AGREE WITH YOU THAT THE POLICE IN CHINA IS ACTING VERY INCONSISTENTLY. I read a lot of news of girls being hurt again by the local 'police' but you know this kind of shxt also happens in other areas of the world too... Poverty is the best nutrition for evilness.


21BenRandall

Yes, it's true - these kinds of things are happening all over the world, though for different reasons.

I'm Australian

ringwraith6

Why do they have to choose between their children and going home? Why not take the children with them? Or would they be ostracized for something that is clearly not their fault?


21BenRandall

Being ostracised by their communities was definitely a factor, but the main factor was that it would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, for someone with no legal status to legally take a Chinese-born child away from its Chinese father

kee30195

I would love to contribute my time like this but when you say full time what happens to your expenses? Who pays for them? How do you take care of your family?


21BenRandall

I receive a stipend (averaging less than $25/day) to cover my most basic living costs. That's not enough to pay rent in my own country (Australia); I'm currently living in Asia so I can continue this work. Fortunately I don't have any debt or dependents.

It's certainly not a lifestyle for everyone. I do it because I believe this work is important, and I'd rather spend my life working towards something meaningful than simply accumulating money and possessions

Insanity_Pills

What leverage do the criminals have to keep the peace and prevent the women from fighting or running away? If i had been kidnapped I would’ve never stopped fighting no matter what they did to me (at least I like to think so), so why do these women not run away like the one you mentioned?

Generally in criminal operations like this there aren’t that many “owners” compared to people who are the “products,” so then how they keep the women down, and prevent them from being overpowered by their superior numbers? Thats why i mentioned leverage, are the families threatened by the same criminals engaging in the trafficking?

Thank you for reading and I wanted to say that you’re doing great work, Im very happy you found your friends.


21BenRandall

Thank you. For the girls who are sold as brides, the only time they're together in one place is when they're held in the houses of middlemen.

At those times, they are physically locked inside rooms, and threatened with murder and sale into prostitution if they try to escape. The girls are often terrified, and even if they could escape, they'd have no idea where to go.

Even so, some do try to escape, and some succeed. I've heard stories of girls smashing locks, jumping out windows, etc., which takes incredible courage when you're in a strange place, far from home

adunatioastralis

I'm a bit confused. Does anyone know how to watch this? I already contributed on the campagin page.


21BenRandall

You should have received an email with a link

Tinshnipz

I know this is late. When my mom retires this is what she wants to spend her time doing.

How would she get involved?


21BenRandall

If she'd like to join our team, she can reach out to Katie at [thehumanearthproject@gmail.com](mailto:thehumanearthproject@gmail.com).

Otherwise there are plenty of anti-trafficking organisations who I'm sure would be happy to have some assistance

palex00

What was the first reaction of the friends involved and you upon first seeing / finding / meeting each other again?


21BenRandall

It was very bittersweet for my friends. On one hand they were excited and happy to have real contact (for the first time in years) with someone from their lives in Vietnam. On the other hand their lives were in some ways simpler when they'd given up hope of going home and resigned themselves to their new lives in China, however horrible those lives might have been

Buroda

My sincere question: In your opinion/experience, how do people who profit from human trafficking knowingly justify this to themselves? Basically, how can they live with themselves?


21BenRandall

Honestly, I ask the same question. Many of the people involved in trafficking don't seem to see the whole picture (eg. the kidnappers don't really know where the girls will end up, or their "husbands" don't really know where they came from). I believe there's a lot of wilful ignorance and self-deception.

For those who do have a better grasp of the whole picture (eg. the middlemen), I really struggle to understand their mentality. They're well aware of the effects they're having on these girls' lives, and I really don't know how they rationalise their own behaviour, and how they sleep at night.

[deleted]

No way you'll see this by now but hopefully someone has an answer or thought.

How does one go about becoming a full time volunteer? I've been flirting with the idea for a while but feel like I'd need a good bank account as backup, or at least no debts, so there's a couple years to go.


21BenRandall

I'm not the most practical person. I felt that this work was important enough to stop everything else, and jumped in without knowing where the money would come from.

Fortunately there are enough people who believe in my work, and I've received enough support to continue (this far, at least!).

I'm by no means an expert on how to do this in a rational or intelligent way

RealHausFrau

Are you concerned about your safety ever? Do you fear retaliation from the husbands of your friends, or the actual kidnappers/traffickers? Do you often do missions to track down individual people who have been kidnapped? You’re a good, brave person to be doing this.


21BenRandall

Thank you. In terms of search operations, I was working only on the specific cases of my friends. There are certainly times I've been at risk, but if I'm in a position to help someone, then I feel that risk is justifiable

[deleted]

[deleted]


21BenRandall

I would suggest getting in touch with one of the larger and better-funded organisations. Some focus on legislation, or prosecution of traffickers, etc. and employ lawyers on an ongoing basis. I imagine the pay will be lower than you might be used to but it's important work and they need people with your skills

Jagerbkb

What lead you to your search in China? And is there any other way to support this organization other than the documentary? A donation site perhaps?


21BenRandall

Initially, I was overwhelmed by the fact of my friends' kidnappings, and wasn't inclined to help because I didn't think there was anything I could do.

Several months later I went through a difficult time in my own life and realised what a difference a good friend could make. I wanted to pay it forward to the people I knew who needed it most.

Yes, donations are more than welcome - our organisation relies on the generosity of individuals like yourself. The link is the same - www.sistersforsale.com - thanks so much!

anti-pSTAT3

What impact does buying a trafficked bride have on a person's social credit score in China? Is the state aware, or could they be presumed to be aware, of the behavior of the perpetrators? Essentially, are they complicit in the crime?


21BenRandall

The social credit system is a work in progress, and wasn't in effect during my investigation. I've heard that, while it's incredibly invasive and terrifying in many ways, it is having a huge impact on organised crime, and has led to huge changes in the sex market. How it affects bride trafficking remains to be seen

More generally, I don't believe China is acting as strongly as they could be against bride trafficking, for the simple reason that they currently have no better solution for the tens of millions of wifeless men

souldforprophet

Why does she have to leave her kid behind?


21BenRandall

/u/bunker_man has covered this. I've answered very similar questions elsewhere here if you'd like more detail

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21BenRandall
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November 2nd 2016