I'm a filmmaker and human rights activist. 5 years ago, 3 of my friends were kidnapped from Vietnam and trafficked into China. My friends were "lucky" - they were forced into marriage, not prostitution. They were 16 years old.

After just a few months, one of my friends took her "husband's" phone and ran away. She was brought home safely. My other 2 friends just disappeared. I didn't know where they were, what had happened to them, or even if they were still alive.

I gave up everything to investigate my friends' disappearances, and risked my life to try and find them in China - the world's most populous country, with over 1.357 billion people (more than 4x the population of the US!). After 5 months of searching, to everyone's surprise, I actually did find them.

It was more than I'd ever hoped for - but that was just the beginning. By the time I found them, each of my 2 friends had given birth in China, and had to make a decision no mother should ever have to make: the choice between her child and her own freedom.

I'm now sharing my friends' story as a documentary to raise awareness of the global human trafficking crisis, and to help protect vulnerable girls in Vietnam.

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

We're running a crowdfunding project to finish the documentary here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/sisters-for-sale-a-human-trafficking-documentary/

EDIT: I can't even remember how many hours we've been here - is it 3? 4? - but my mind is melting. I'll answer a couple more questions then wrap it up. You've been wonderful - thank you for all your great questions, your upvotes, and all the support you've given - it really makes a difference. If you haven't checked out the documentary, it's available until the weekend, when our fundraising campaign ends: http://www.sistersforsale.com

For those of you who still have questions, you'll find plenty of information on my blog - Oct/Nov 2014, June 2015 and Oct 2016 may be of particular interest: http://www.humanearth.net/blog/history/


Comments: 1915 • Responses: 91  • Date: 

MattBaster3149 karma

You are fighting the good fight, OP, while most of us just sit behind keyboards and bitch really loudly about everything. What were the most physically dangerous situations you faced during the making of this documentary?

21BenRandall2180 karma

The most dangerous situations were the initial meetings I arranged with the girls in China. The men who bought them were aware of the meetings, and were known to still be in contact with the trafficking networks. If they had realised I was there to try and help my friends get out of China, anything could have happened.

put_the_punny_down1166 karma

Did you bring Liam Neeson with you?

21BenRandall1903 karma

Hahaha maybe I should get Liam Neeson to narrate the documentary...

Nyxtoggler1156 karma

You totally should ask. I bet he would do it too.

21BenRandall1459 karma

Anyone got his number?

shewantstheDogecoins150 karma

True Fact: No Liam Neeson film is complete without him calling someone a moron in a scruffy voice.

21BenRandall164 karma

There are a few people he could call 'moron' (or worse) in this one :)

WeAllWantToBeHappy128 karma

Brad Pitt has connections to Vietnam. I can't see how he could turn you down....

21BenRandall426 karma

Seems like Brad Pitt's got other things going on at the moment...

lakaffee-211 karma

"Your friends".

Piss off. Self-righteous, self-marketing, pseudo-social, detached bourgeois asshole.

21BenRandall78 karma

The trafficked girls were my friends I'd known for more than a year before their abductions. Thanks for your time.

Yoguls2398 karma

Where do you even start to look?

21BenRandall3094 karma

Initially, the only possibility I had (however slim) was to try and identify my friends' traffickers, and trace their path through the trafficking network. That proved to be just as impossible as I imagined it would be, but I got lucky when one of my friends was able to access a phone in China and call home. It still took several months to contact, locate and meet with her, but at least I had a starting point :)

JumpingCactus1748 karma

This documentary sounds like a thriller movie. It's just crazy to think that something like this could happen in real life, yet it probably happens all the time.

Really excited for this documentary, OP. Glad you got your friends back.

21BenRandall1214 karma

Thanks. It was incredible the way it all played out. It was tough to live through, but will make an intense film.

nucleargenocide879 karma

Liam Neeson would play you.

21BenRandall591 karma

Hahaha he'd kick ass too

ParachutePeople107 karma

what made think to film it?

21BenRandall398 karma

My background is in documentary filmmaking. When I realised how horrendous this issue is, it was the obvious thing to do

cuddlefucker200 karma

Unfortunately, I doubt the captives are found often. This story has an amazing ending for sure

21BenRandall292 karma

I'm not surprised that some people are skeptical when they hear it for the first time. I could hardly believe it when I was in the middle of it :)

arzthaus334 karma

So the one friend was able to escape independently, essentially. How did you begin to find the other two? It still seems like finding two needles in a haystack.

21BenRandall763 karma

The first friend ran away and was recovered by an NGO that brought her home. As I mentioned above, one of the others was able to call home. She had no idea where she was and it was a painstaking process to try and determine her location, from what clues she was able to give me. You can see it right now in the first 40min of the film if you're interested, it's available for $1 on our fundraising page (to raise the money to finish it!): http://www.sistersforsale.com

tw04228 karma

Just backed at the middle sister level. Hope you can finish the whole documentary soon! Good luck!

21BenRandall89 karma

Thank you, it's much appreciated :)

NovaLifeM81435 karma

Did you face any physical danger or threats on your journey to find your friends? Congrats btw! :)

21BenRandall2581 karma

Thank you. Much of the trafficking is done by multinational organised crime networks, and there was certainly an element of danger involved. It was the kind of situation where we (my cameraman and I) would have been killed, or nothing would happen. We came through without any problems, but will never know how dangerous it really was for us. The only death threat I received, bizarrely, was from the family of one of the girls, who didn't want her home.

NovaLifeM81174 karma

thanks for your response, if its not too personal, could you elaborate on why the girl's family would not want her home?

21BenRandall2375 karma

The girls are from very traditional societies, where there's a lot of victim-blaming and suspicion of returned girls. Having lost her virginity, she'd also lost much of her value as a member of society. The family believed she was better off in China.

mmm_ice_cream848 karma

The death threat from the one girls family...was she the one who chose to stay with her child?

21BenRandall1606 karma

She was. Their attitude was a large part of the reason she didn't come home. But their attitude was also largely her own fault - she didn't want them to worry about her, so she told them she was fine in China. You can see how complicated it gets - especially when the man who buys and rapes you is the father of your child.

GloryHoleVampire313 karma

Is it possible she was sold off by her family?

21BenRandall615 karma

I suspected so for a very long time, but later identified those actually responsible. Going into communities where human trafficking is so rampant, it can be very hard to know who to trust, because people are very often betrayed by those close to them

Ferggzilla827 karma

What are the local authorities in Vietnam doing about this practice or custom of kidnapping brides and kidnapping women in general?

21BenRandall1054 karma

The custom of marriage by abduction is particular to Hmong society. Sapa district has a Hmong-majority population and the local authorities tend to turn a blind eye towards it. The tradition helps facilitate abductions of girls to be trafficked and sold in China. With the border so close, and so porous, there's often little the authorities can do about these abductions.

girlonboat373 karma

Sorry for all the questions, but ishe there anything the Chinese authorities do about it? Or is there anything they could do to help women already in forced marriages? Thanks again

21BenRandall727 karma

It's a tricky situation, because the demand for women in China came about largely as a result of the government's 'one-child' policy. The authorities there do act against the traffickers when they find them, but are unable to provide a better solution for the shortage of women.

orthotraumamama454 karma

Ridiculous that Chinese culture ... cultivates (could've worded that better) a society where you can only have one child and everyone wants a son, and then everyone is suddenly surprised when twenty years later there are no women left.

21BenRandall61 karma

It's just one of several nasty side-effects of the 'one-child' policy, unfortunately.

Icost12216 karma

So it is kind of a situation where they deal with the ones that is behind the kidnappings (to some degree anyway, because this "but are unable to provide a better solution for the shortage of women." does sound a lot like that they willfully ignore parts of it).

But might not directly try to help the women getting kidnapped or the ones already sold and "married" away?

21BenRandall32 karma

To be honest, the girls who have already been kidnapped and sold are unlikely to have many good options left in such traditional societies. That's why I'm now trying to focus on prevention work, to stop the girls being taken in the first place.

wastesHisTime2 karma

It's my understanding that they've lifted the one child policy. Maybe related?

Icost12215 karma

Yes i think they did lift it, but it was as late as 2013 so it should not have had any real effect on the amount of "available" women, unless three year old ones are up for marriage...

The thing is that i did not feel like it was entirely clear what /u21benrandall was saying in the part i quoted, i interpret it like they do act against them constantly whenever they can find them, but the second part seem to almost say that they think it is an acceptable evil and that they donĀ“t act against them?

wastesHisTime2 karma

I took it to imply that the unwillingness to lift the one child policy initially reflected a lack of willingness to treat the underlying systematic problem that was leading to the crimes in the first place. As long as people want a thing, some people will try to make money getting it for them. Making homeland women more available would reduce the desire for unwilling foreign wives.

21BenRandall3 karma

The problem isn't necessarily being allocated the resources it needs to tackle it effectively, as the state is unable to provide a better solution for the 33 million+ Chinese men for whom there are no women.

spitfire91073 karma

Didn't they repeal that rule and now have a 2 child policy?

21BenRandall11 karma

There have always been exceptions to the policy. They added more in Nov 2013, and plan to relax it further. It will take at least another generation for that to have any real effect on the extreme gender imbalance.

Brontosaurium144 karma

Is this similar to the Bride kidnapping seen in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in terms of tradition?

21BenRandall219 karma

To my understanding (from a VICE documentary on the issue), it is remarkably similar.

Ferggzilla111 karma

Thank you for your efforts. I am wondering how the males in the Hmong population feel about this custom? Certainly some of them have daughters they need to think about. What do the males of the Hmong population think about this practice. Maybe getting them to realize the scope of the problem, they can adjust their custom?

21BenRandall268 karma

It's a custom that can lead to rape and suicide and often facilitates human trafficking. I've visited some Hmong villages in Laos where it has been recognised as destructive and effectively ended by the communities. The Hmong communities I've been working with in Vietnam haven't yet begun that conversation - it's a dialogue we're hoping to initiate with our human trafficking prevention program.

speedisavirus0 karma

I think the real question here is what is CHINA doing. They were known kidnapped and forced to marry yet they still had no legal standings in China in relation to their children of rape.

21BenRandall1 karma

Unfortunately, Chinese government tends not to be highly accountable in certain areas, particularly when it comes to foreign criticism.

Snow_King7426 karma

Did your other 2 friends that you found in china return safely, or are they still there?

21BenRandall937 karma

Since the girls had both had Chinese-born children by the time I found them, and they themselves had no legal status there, there was extremely little chance of their bringing their children home legally. So they ended up facing the choice between their kids and their own freedom. Initially, both were prepared to leave their children to return to their homes and families in Vietnam, and one actually did. The other found she couldn't leave her child and is still in China.

girlonboat379 karma

Does she have any plans to move back when her child is grown? And since she stayed, does her husband know she was considering leaving? Thanks

21BenRandall640 karma

My returned friend has cut all ties with her child and the man who bought her in China. The friend who stayed did, in the course of an argument, threaten the man who bought her with leaving and returning permanently to Vietnam - which really didn't make the situation any easier at the time.

Sam-Gunn292 karma

Did you not get any help from the Chinese authorities when you shed light on the trafficking practices? Or do they not care/are in the pockets of the traffickers?

21BenRandall517 karma

There were several ways we could have approached the problem, and ultimately chose not to approach the Chinese authorities - mainly because the situation would be taken out of our hands in a highly unpredictable way.

spitfire9107203 karma

How do these Vietnamese girls get kidnapped. Are they kidnapped by chinese that sneak into Vietnam or by Vietnamese traffickers and sold to Chinese? I have cousins in Vietnam anyway they can be safe? Any area to avoid?

21BenRandall328 karma

I've been dealing particularly with girls of the Hmong minority, a group which exists in both Vietnam, China, Laos and other areas. Typically, the girls are taken by Vietnamese Hmong, sold to Chinese Hmong, and sold on to Chinese men.

Sam-Gunn87 karma

So the Chinese authorities do not have precedent where they assist in repatriating trafficked individuals to the countries they were kidnapped from?

Man, and here I am thinking nobody in their right mind would FIGHT this...

Well, you've done something amazing for not just your friends, but the rest of the world. You have my awe, and gratitude for helping your fellow human beings.

21BenRandall89 karma

Thank you very much. I've been working with an organisation which has contacts at the Viet-Chinese border, and are able to organise the paperwork to bring trafficked girls home. Otherwise I don't know of it being done.

Deviknyte50 karma

Is there no way for your friend to get her child back?

No way for your other friend to leave with her child?

21BenRandall151 karma

These girls are from small, highly traditional communities. Ultimately, both girls decided that if they were to return home, it would in fact be much more difficult to do so with a child. They saw it as harming their chances of being accepted, finding work and finding new husbands.

Mrguymanp146 karma

Damn, I feel sorry for the kid. They were just born into all this madness and their mother leaves them. I know the mother's been through a lot of shit and all but still. Poor kid.

21BenRandall464 karma

Especially since the kid's a girl, and the man who bought her mother has shown so little respect for women. My other friend, who ultimately chose not to come home, gave this as her reason: 'I don't want my baby to be apart from her mother the same way that I'm apart from my mother'. That just about broke my heart.

KrabMittens35 karma

Since the girls had both had Chinese-born children by the time I found them, and they themselves had no legal status there, there was extremely little chance of their bringing their children home legally.

I don't really understand how that's possible. The husband is clearly a criminal. How would she not get full custody and a green card from any western country?

Napkin_whore64 karma

There are some Chinese people who don't even have legal status becuase they were born in secret, outside of the rules of the (now updated) one child policy. I think there are many things we can't believe about third world countries until we go to them and swallow the truth whole.

21BenRandall27 karma

That's true. There have been many nasty side-effects of the 'one-child' policy. Even though it's been relaxed, and is to be relaxed further, the demand for women will persist for at least another generation.

21BenRandall32 karma

To find out, the matter would have to be put into the hands of the Chinese authorities, with extremely unpredictable outcomes. Please remember too that while the men are criminals, they're also the fathers of the girls' babies, which makes it all extremely complicated. If you're interested in the details, there are more here on my blog, particularly Nov 2014 and June 2015: http://www.humanearth.net/blog/history/#Pt3

ibru215 karma

Hi Ben.

Just want to say that what you've done and continue to do should be applauded. Good luck with everything and whatever future plans you have.

I haven't watched the 40min doc yet but I plan to later tonight so apologies if this is already in there but, during your time documenting and searching, did one thing/situation stand out more than the others in terms of opening your eyes to the severity of it all?

21BenRandall435 karma

Thank you, ibru. During most of my time in Vietnam and China, I kept my work secret from even my closest friends in Vietnam. After one of the girls returned home, however, it became public knowledge that I'd played a part in finding her and helping her home. In the days and weeks that followed, I was constantly being approached in the streets of Sapa with requests to help find missing sisters and daughters. I knew of course that the problem was an enormous one, but that really brought it home.

ibru106 karma

You're welcome, thanks for answering.

I imagine that would have tugged at the heartstrings like crazy, it sure would mine. More power to you, Ben.

21BenRandall137 karma

It's been a difficult few years, but will be worth it to get this documentary out to the world :)

xen8739 karma

Any thoughts of setting up something like a foundation so you could extend your work?

21BenRandall104 karma

In early 2013 I established 'The Human, Earth Project' which was initially set up to raise awareness, and is now also going into direct action with a human trafficking prevention program in northern Vietnam. You can check it out here: http://www.humanearth.net

kulafa17162 karma

Would they drug your friends or hurt them?

21BenRandall383 karma

The girls say they were initially drugged in Vietnam. One says she lost consciousness and woke up in China. The other says she lost control of her actions. Once in China they were coerced by threats of murder and sale into prostitution. When they were sold as brides they were raped and forced to bear unwanted children.

stormageddonsmum137 karma

While watching your documentary and hearing that she lost control of her actions, it immediately reminded me of a Vice documentary about this drug (Scopolamine/Devil's breath) in Colombia.Sauce

And thanks for being such a kind human.

Edit: spelled Colombia wrong

21BenRandall178 karma

Thanks for taking the time :) I honestly don't know which drug/s are used. In a culture with so much victim-blaming, where the abductions rely on a degree of deception, it's also possible that some or all of the girls are not in fact drugged, but say so to excuse what may otherwise be considered unacceptable behaviour, ie. spending time with boys.

KingWillTheConqueror137 karma

Were your friends Vietnamese or in that country for some other reason when they were kidnapped? Were they your friends before the kidnapping or did you become a human rights activist after it happened? (the experience prompted you)

21BenRandall227 karma

They were local girls I'd known previously, from living in Vietnam. They were from villages near Sapa, a hill station close to the Chinese border. They would identify as being part of the Hmong minority, rather than Vietnamese.

KingWillTheConqueror46 karma

Crazy! Keep up the good work, the world needs more people like yourself.

21BenRandall47 karma

Thank you :)

junzip135 karma

Hey OP. Great post and hope all is going well with documentary. Two questions: 1) Are your friends Vietnamese, and from what socioeconomic background are they? 2) How were your dealing with authorities and NGOs in both countries? Which official bodies/authorities were available for you to appeal to in Vietnam and China respectively?

21BenRandall191 karma

Thank you. I've answered your first question here already - they're Hmong girls from very poor, rural villages, with little or no formal education. I worked with two fantastic NGOs in Vietnam, Blue Dragon Children's Foundation and Alliance Anti-Trafic. Otherwise it was important to keep my work hidden, as there was no way of knowing how far the reach of the trafficking networks extended.

junzip49 karma

Sorry. Didn't see other response. Thanks :). So no contact with authorities for fear of corrupted officials? Was that on the recommendations of the NGOs?

21BenRandall109 karma

This is a very sensitive issue, and I'm sure you can understand why I'd rather not go on record with too much detail... I would like the option of returning to Vietnam/China at some point :)

tamammothchuk101 karma

Are you concerned about retaliation from the perpetrators at all? Either from rescuing your friends directly or shining a light on their illegal trade and possibly their identities?

21BenRandall164 karma

Keeping the true nature of my work secret was a major concern while I was in Vietnam and China. I'm no longer in the area and, even if I was, wouldn't be particularly worried now since I'm no longer working actively to find/rescue girls

Ryandw290 karma

What kept you going? Why not give up? Also, congrats man, this is such a good story!

21BenRandall160 karma

Thank you. To be honest, it has been incredibly difficult at times, not to mention expensive, and there were times I did consider stopping. I kept going because I knew how important it would be to share this story with the world, and what a difference it can make in the lives of countless girls at risk of the horrors of trafficking.

cards_dot_dll75 karma

How much Chinese did you learn?

21BenRandall201 karma

Almost none - I can say 'watermelon', 'bad egg', and count to maybe 5 :)

cards_dot_dll66 karma

I'm in China for another day and a half. Is the watermelon worth seeking out?

21BenRandall90 karma

Hahaha go for it - it's called 'xi gua', or 'west melon', there :)

pikaBeam31 karma

haha I hope you learned that "bad egg" has a different meaning than its direct translation!

21BenRandall97 karma

My Chinese teacher used it to insult me for my complete inability to learn Chinese :)

carlicaar69 karma

How bad is trafficking in the United States, and what can an average person do to help?

21BenRandall116 karma

Trafficking is a very real issue everywhere, including the US, and it's getting worse. It takes various forms, particularly sex and labour trafficking, and exists in places you might least expect it. The best thing to do is educate yourself on the issue, understand which systems you're supporting or starving each time you spend your money, and support organisations fighting trafficking in any ways you can. Victims are very real people, like you or I. They need help.

carlicaar34 karma

Do you have any recommendations of systems we could donate to?

21BenRandall46 karma

The organisations I respect the most are those on the ground, doing the dirty work - educating those most at risk, and finding, rescuing and rehabilitating victims etc. Prevention is most possibly the most important element - if we could get that right, we wouldn't need to do the rest! Of course there are other organisations working in policy etc which are also very important.

mompounder67 karma

How are the girls doing now?

Thank you for sharing this and spreading the word. More people need to be educated.

21BenRandall138 karma

Thanks. My friend who came home is doing well. Recently I've had some trouble contacting the friend who remained in China (which has happened numerous times over the past 2.5 years, and isn't particularly alarming). She was fine when we last spoke.

johncl4rke65 karma

Great work. With all the investigating you did i am sure you managed to find out how much the brides were purchased for ?

21BenRandall121 karma

Purchase price varies from girl to girl, but it seems they can be bought for as little as 3 or 4 thousand US dollars.

petey9277 karma

So what's the socio-economic status of the men buying these girls? Are they pretty much all upper class? Also is it common knowledge in China that if someone suddenly has a Vietnamese "wife" they were probably abducted?

21BenRandall185 karma

They're not actually. A wealthy Chinese man would have no trouble finding a Chinese girl, and affording the wedding gifts to her family. The men buying trafficked girls tend to be those who can't otherwise find a wife - poor, older, physically unattractive or even handicapped.

21BenRandall186 karma

I've often wondered what the neighbours think when a man suddenly has a wife who clearly doesn't speak the language

tahituatara34 karma

So the sort of people who might get a mail-order bride, basically?

21BenRandall83 karma

There's also an industry catering to men who holiday to Vietnam, Myanmar, etc and buy a bride there. In that case the bride goes willingly with the man, though often doesn't realise what she's in for

JoeParrish55 karma

How does it feel to be a "best friend" in the truest sense of the term, perhaps ever?

21BenRandall138 karma

Hahaha I don't see myself that way. I would hope that if the same thing happened to me, somebody would come looking for me. That's the kind of society I'd like to live in, so it would be hypocritical to act any other way, wouldn't it? :)

risihr51 karma

Hello Ben, saw your 40 minutes of documentary and was impacted by the story.

What efforts are being done in the area to prevent more women from being trafficked?

And if they are trafficked, are they taught anything that could help them get rescued? For example - one of the issues from the movie was the women didn't know how to use international dial codes to call home.

21BenRandall87 karma

Thanks for taking the time to check out the story. We're currently raising funds to both finish the documentary, and to launch a human trafficking prevention program for vulnerable girls in 13 high-risk villages around Sapa. Similar educational programs in Vietnam have been highly successful at reducing trafficking rates, and we'll be taking that work further. The prevention program will cover a wide range of issues - before, during and after trafficking - including the one you've mentioned, and will also work to change community perceptions towards trafficked girls. For those of you who haven't seen the film or fundraising campaign, you can check it out here: http://www.sistersforsale.com

whatifidontwanttotoo45 karma

Hi Ben, thanks so much for raising awareness for an issue that most of the western people only know from the occasional news outlet! Is there anything (besides supporting your campaign) one can do (from as far away as e. g. Europe) to actively fight against this horrendous practices?

21BenRandall55 karma

Thanks for listening :) I've just answered a very similar question, I'll cut and paste: "Trafficking is a very real issue everywhere, including the US, and it's getting worse. It takes various forms, particularly sex and labour trafficking, and exists in places you might least expect it. The best thing to do is educate yourself on the issue, understand which systems you're supporting or starving each time you spend your money, and support organisations fighting trafficking in any ways you can. Victims are very real people, like you or I. They need help." ... And of course, if you're able to support my work, it would be much appreciated and make a real difference: http://www.sistersforsale.com

banhmy080843 karma

Hi OP, Vietnamese here. I'm currently living and studying in the U.S., and I find what you're doing is Amazing. What can the Vietnamese communities in the U.S and other countries do to help?

21BenRandall38 karma

Thank you. Awareness of this issue is critical, as is getting more attention and resources allocated to those most at risk - particularly the minority groups along the borders.

rkenj42 karma

Are the kidnappers facing criminal charges from the local justice?

Is there any possibility of the government of your country do something about it?

21BenRandall92 karma

The initial kidnappers are often quite difficult to catch - many of them are young men from other towns or villages, who disappear after the abduction and are never seen again. I'm an Australian, my government isn't involved :)

HarryPeratestiz36 karma

I imagine you experienced periods of doubt and feelings of hopeless defeat before your miraculous discovery. Can you open up about the mental battles/conversations you may have had with yourself in order to keep pushing through? I love practicing mind-over-matter and exercising my mental fortitude, but putting myself in your shoes I can only imagine you had to have overcome some serious adversity within yourself.

Thanks for sharing and spreading goodness into the world! Stories like this are what motivate some of us to keep our integrity intact and follow our moral compass, even when the going gets tough and the odds are stacked (severely in your case) against you.

21BenRandall75 karma

Thank you, and you're right - it was a very challenging time personally. For me, the hardest part was when my friends were facing the decision to leave their babies to go home, or essentially give up on their own lives to stay with them in China. These decisions were going to forever affect lives on both sides of the border. Of course I wanted the see the girls back in Vietnam - but of course I could never advise them to leave their children. That decision was theirs alone to make, and it was very hard to see them struggling through it while remaining impartial.

vahavta31 karma

I've often wondered around this sort of thing -- at what point and why did you start filming, and at what point (if they differ) did you realize you were making a documentary?

21BenRandall48 karma

My background is actually in documentary filmmaking. When I first began learning how devastating and widespread this issue is, I wanted to film it, so I had a cameraman with me from the beginning, and we filmed everything. I didn't realise, of course, what an incredible story we'd stumbled into.

triplesock28 karma

Could you elaborate a bit on how your friends were treated after being sold in China? Did their relationship with the men who bought them ever approach anything resembling a relationship after all that time, or did it remain strictly slavery?

21BenRandall103 karma

The trafficked girls are first sold to middlemen in southern China, where they are subjected to threats and essentially drained of any hope of returning home. A girl is then sold to a man looking for a wife. Without any legal status, he can then treat her any way he likes. Many of these girls find themselves in abusive relationships - clearly, if a man considers it fine to buy or sell a woman, he will never give her the respect she deserves as a human being.

triplesock17 karma

That's so heartbreaking I can't imagine it :( Thank you for what you did. I hope your documentary inspires people to do the same.

21BenRandall22 karma

Thank you. If you're interested, you're more than welcome to support it here: http://www.sistersforsale.com

KrabMittens14 karma

What would happen if the girl murdered the husband?

21BenRandall30 karma

Well, that depends if she was caught or not :)

Brontosaurium16 karma

You've mentioned the complicity of the authorities in Vietnam, how did that affect your search? Is the blind eye turned on a local level or higher? Did any authorities actively attempt to impede your investigation, or refuse to help? How did this play out in China? I have lived in china, and I know that generally, police authority rarely overlaps to different communities, especially in the more rural areas, so I'm curious about how that played into all of this.

21BenRandall38 karma

As I mentioned above, the issue of corruption in Vietnam/China isn't one I want to go into detail with, for the simple reason that I'd like the option of returning to those countries, and both countries are less than welcoming towards outside criticism. I will say that parts of this story were a lot more complex and frustrating than they needed to be.

craicatoa11 karma

You Liam Neesons?

21BenRandall10 karma

Hahaha no, but I get that a lot! I still haven't seen any of those films :)

RogueSpartan11 karma

Do you believe that the extremely lopsided sex ratio in China is a reason for the amount of kidnappings? Meaning Men can't find woman in their own country so they go to places like Vietnam.

21BenRandall8 karma


adoginspace8 karma

What did you think when you first came to the decision you would risk your life and EVERYTHING to find them? What did you feel? And more importantly, thank you. What you did is something I cannot even imagine doing. You're a true hero.

21BenRandall19 karma

Thank you. It wasn't a particularly logical decision at the time - I'd known about one particular friend's abduction for about a year, and I realised I would never really rest easy until I did what I could to try and find her. So I did.

adoginspace5 karma

You're amazing. Thank you so much for speaking out about this issue. I've known it's been an issue, but it's terrifying and jarring to hear such stories. You're a great person.

21BenRandall8 karma

Thanks for listening. You can check out the first 40min of the documentary right now if you're interested, at http://www.sistersforsale.com

Arctorkovich8 karma

the choice between her child and her own freedom.

Why couldn't she have both? Is there a law in China saying the kid stays with the kidnappers?

21BenRandall24 karma

The men who bought the girls, and their children, are Chinese. The girls themselves have no legal status in China. It would be a legal nightmare for an illegal to try and take a Chinese citizen to Vietnam, away from its Chinese parent. We considered less legal options but the girls chose not to go down that path.

superwio5 karma

How did you initially finance this project?

21BenRandall13 karma

The reason it took me so long to get back to Asia to search for my friends is because when I first decided to return, I was broke and living on the other side of the world. I spent 10mth working sometimes up to and over 100hr/week, saving all I could, and ran an initial fundraising campaign which brought in $3,000.

FeralMuse5 karma

Did you consider yourself a feminist before this all began, and do you now? How has this changed your view of how women stand in the world today, beyond the obviously horrible experience of getting kidnapped and sold?

Thank you so much for what you are doing... it is an issue that is very close to my heart.

21BenRandall21 karma

When I first became involved in this work I was just beginning to understand the challenges faced by women in all walks of life. Having now spent almost 4 years working on this, I would definitely consider myself a feminist. And I'm sure that anyone familiar with the issues involved would say the same.

21BenRandall14 karma

When it comes to feminism, there's still so much work to be done on all fronts, particularly in the traditional societies I've been working with.

FeralMuse4 karma

I agree! Thank you so much for your support.I hate that it's taken as a joke in so many places, and every new ally is wonderful. =)

21BenRandall5 karma

Thanks for raising it as an issue - it is a very important one.

Nam-Redips4 karma

After 5 months your two friends gave birth? Were they pregnant before being kidnapped?

21BenRandall12 karma

The girls had already been in China for some time before I was able to return to Asia and begin searching for them. They had each been there about 3 years by the time I found them. The babies' fathers were the men who bought the girls in China.

Throwaway237floz4 karma

What do you hope to accomplish?

Using a throw away because I travel to China often.

Human trafficking in China is a lot more complex than Chinese 'husbands' buying Vietnamese 'brides' through traffickers. Part of it stems from a culture of arranged marriages where the groom's family would pay a rather large sum of money to the bride's family as part of the wedding ceremony, or 'dowry' as people often refer to. 'Buying' a bride is actually a lot more common than you would believe, and it's very accepted in China.

It takes a lot more than a documentary to correct it. The central government sectioned media outlet outright whitewashes human trafficking (see The Story of An Abducted Woman, a story about an abducted woman finding love in a forced marriage, it's often criticized for romanticizing human trafficking). Paying for a bride in China is not a taboo subject. How will you fight that perception?

Rather than media exposure and raising awareness, do you have any future plans?

On the other hand, are you going to investigate the other side of the issue, and look into traffickers that sells wedding packages to Vietnamese families, lying to their daughters about better life in China?

21BenRandall12 karma

You're absolutely right, it is a very complex issue. The issue of human trafficking is now receiving more attention in China. The 'one-child' policy has been relaxed, and is to be relaxed further. I don't have any delusions of affecting Chinese policy, so my approach is two-fold. Firstly, to use the documentary as an ongoing tool for raising awareness and funds for this issue. Secondly, we're launching a human trafficking prevention program to help educate and protect the girls most at risk of being trafficked from northern Vietnam.

WindWalkerWhoosh0 karma

Killing the buyer and their family would help a lot, then publicizing the reasons anonymously. I can't think of anything lesser that would.

21BenRandall3 karma

I'm not sure that's any better than the original crime, and doubt it would make a difference in a country as large as China.

Blacklivesmatthew2 karma

Are you Vietnamese? Are your friends Vietnamese? Are they looking specifically for Vietnamese girls or just girls that happen to be in Vietnam ? Are Vietnamese people ethnically distinguishable from Chinese? Do they speak the same language?

21BenRandall8 karma

I'm Australian. My friends are Vietnamese Hmong I met while living in Vietnam. I was looking specifically for my friends. There are numerous ethnic groups and languages in both Vietnam and China.

reddit_propaganda_BS2 karma

what do the chinese billionaire club that are investing 5 trillion dollars in Canada's IT infrastructure , this next year alone, have to say about this trafficing in their back yard?

21BenRandall11 karma

That's a good question, and not one I'm qualified to answer :)

DawnOfArkham-11 karma

You know what? Downvotes be damned. I'm calling bullshit on this whole thing.

21BenRandall3 karma

I realise it's a very unusual story. Please feel free to check it out. There's a website with a blog going back to early 2013, covering the whole story, at http://www.humanearth.net. I'm sure you'll also find a number of articles if you google "Ben Randall", "The Human, Earth Project", or "Sisters For Sale'. You can also see the first 40min of the documentary right now - if that doesn't dispel your doubts, nothing will :)