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

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:

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!!!

Comments: 2875 • Responses: 63  • Date: 

Wittyandpithy2834 karma

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?

21BenRandall3639 karma

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

Beankiller1616 karma

How is it possible that men who are literally buying girls/women are ignorant of what they’re doing?

Brewsleroy2602 karma

They're not ignorant of spending money to meet/get the women. They're ignorant of the women being kidnapped to be sold. I imagine they process (buyer side) is of the mail order bride variety. You pay someone to "connect" you with a woman. They probably say "these women are willing to come over and marry you to not be poor, you just have to pay us our fee". They aren't going to come out and say, "we have this woman we kidnapped and we have this woman we kidnapped" when offering the women. That would make no sense.

This isn't to say there aren't men out there that are aware and don't care, but just how I imagine the process goes.

21BenRandall2057 karma

In the case of my friends, the traffickers went further and claimed the girls were their family (daughters, or nieces).

The girls are of the Hmong ethnicity, a group which exists on both sides of the border. Unfortunately it's Hmong people doing most of the trafficking.

The Vietnamese Hmong will sell the girls to Chinese Hmong (who still speak their language, if not the same dialect), who will then sell the girls onto other Chinese people (with whom they can't speak at all)

Ignorance certainly plays a part, and I believe much of it is wilful /u/Aliktren

ihateneedles9000235 karma

I love what you do and remember your ama from a few years ago. I have been reading most of your reply back answers and was not stunned to see Hmong also listed on there. It is common knowlege that they're not only trafficked in China but America as well. Lots of older Hmong men past the age of twenties will go to Vietnam/Thailand to buy the girls since their families are poor. Its mostly men in their 40s and above that do this. It is common knowledge that Hmong people in Thailand know Hmong-Americans are rich and that living in America is much better so they are a bit more than willing to get married and have a new life in America. Also, it does not cost a lot for the men to buy the women. Normal prices are less than $3000 usd which will do the trick. The american dollar converted to thai currency is A LOT.

When I say Hmong men past twenties, i am not including men who have become Americanized. Most adult men who are still fully traditional and not married will go out to Thailand and find women. Many Hmong women use facebook and can find Hmong Americans easier this way. Then again, Hmongs in Thailand easily scam the Hmong Americans because the men are so convinced they can get the girl. In many Hmong facebook pages, you'll find us making memes mocking the old men getting scammed or just this situation in general.

What also helps push this trafficking away is that most Hmong people know each other. Our younger generation shuns the older generation in practicing it or word gets around of how much of a loser they are. Yes, og's still go but most of us who have become Americanized find it disgusting. Many trafficked women that come to the USA will either stay with the man or eventually learn english and run off. Situation just depends on families. On one hand, if the mans family members isnt as traditional, they wont make it a big deal if the woman runs off. But if the family is traditional, they'd probably be strict about the womans actions, where she goes and what she learns.

Edit: added a bit more context.

IamNotPersephone283 karma

Some Hmong clans have a tradition of ritual bridal kidnapping, too, and it happens in America. I live in an area with a relatively high population of Hmong and a couple of my friends were kidnapped into marriage, both while still in high school. One left her “husband” and tried to return to her parent’s house, only to be faced with huge pressure to go back to him. She chose homelessness, but is now college educated, married to a man of her choice, with four kids. The other stayed with her husband. She did finish high school, but she never went to college. She also has four kids. She and her husband seem to barely tolerate each other.

These weren’t reported to the police, either. The consensus among the community is that this is a social, internal problem and not one to involve the authorities. Which is awful; several years ago, there was a woman murdered along with her three children by her husband while she was trying to leave him. Rumor had it that she was also a kidnapped bride.

21BenRandall150 karma

Absolutely. There is a section of the documentary dedicated to this custom - not only it is often harmful to the girls (and can be considered a form of human trafficking in itself), but in Vietnam it also helps facilitate the trafficking of girls to be sold in China

21BenRandall17 karma

Thank you. Yes, I've heard stories about all of the things you've mentioned here (including the scams!). It's sad that these things are so commonplace :/

jellybr3ak473 karma

This is the result of China's one child policy, which created unbalanced gender rate, so many Chinese men can't find a bride. Those men are the demand side. And it's hard stop them. The best is to fine those men, but it's China, and while buying marijuana gets you jail time, buying a human is usually lightly fined.

Sentreen201 karma

Exactly, there is also an insane amount of social pressure in China to get married before you are 30. So you have an enormous amount of single men who constantly hear that they "should find a nice girl and get married".

pmwood25238 karma

Just left China and they have entire markets in the park where parents print out a dating profile for their 27-35 year old children and try to find a match with other parents doing the same. Super interesting to watch but must be terrible to grow up with a culture that puts that much pressure to be married by a certain age.

21BenRandall104 karma

Yes, it is very strange to see. We filmed some of these for the documentary

Miracle_Salad248 karma

Yeah, dont watch porn. Alot of the traffickers force these women into porn. If you dont believe me, check out A21, they have all the stats on human trafficking and where these women end up.

21BenRandall235 karma

It's true that there's a huge amount of non-consensual pornography

Eclipsed830159 karma

Start in Vietnam. The people kidnapping these girls are often young Vietnamese boys who have really no idea what they are doing, other than bringing in some money for food for their family.

21BenRandall128 karma

In some cases it's desperation, in others it's simply greed

rianujnas2560 karma

Did you get help from Chinese officials?

21BenRandall3660 karma

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

rianujnas886 karma

thats sad.

Keep going!!

21BenRandall761 karma

Thank you. We'll keep doing as much as we can, for as long as our funding lasts

R____I____G____H___T628 karma

Knowing China's track records, I doubt they would care that much.

21BenRandall1578 karma

I've heard all kinds of stories when it comes to the Chinese authorities and trafficked girls. Sometimes they're extremely helpful. Sometimes they imprison victims. In one case the police actually re-trafficked a girl

BiOnicFury726 karma

I'm sorry? What the what?

They rettrafficked her?

What the fuck?

21BenRandall1229 karma

Sadly, yes. A girl who had been forced into marriage and motherhood was finally able to escape her "husband", and fled to the Chinese police - only to be trafficked again

racooniac747 karma

i would not even be suprised if they retrafficed her into the organ blackmarket ...

21BenRandall676 karma

I don't know why this was downvoted. It's a legitimate comment

MystikIncarnate337 karma

That's really disturbing. How did you come across this information? Or is that in the video?

I'm going to look into helping you guys out. Nobody should have the freedom to choose what happens to their own body, taken from them ever. I'm a big fan of humanist projects like this.

Thanks for doing what you do.

21BenRandall360 karma

Thanks, we can really use all the help we can get.

The documentary focuses on the stories of my friends. The story of the girl retrafficked by the police was one of many other stories I encountered while working in that region, and doesn't appear in the film

alecesne85 karma

What part of China?

21BenRandall159 karma

I wasn't involved in her case and can't say precisely, but I believe it was Anhui

Captain_Slamtastic1788 karma

What was the most dangerous/challenging part of rescuing your friends after you found them?

21BenRandall2835 karma

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

khronics125737 karma

Damn, was hoping to enter to thread and seeing a happy end result, was disappointed :( those poor girls.

21BenRandall1689 karma

Ultimately the story ended as happily as could have reasonably been expected. Both girls were ultimately given the freedom to choose what they wanted to do, and most of the traffickers involved were arrested

2ElectricJigaboo758 karma

What are the traffickers like? Do they realize what they're doing is fucked? Are they desperate for cash or incapable of empathy or just have a complete backwards value-system?

21BenRandall1335 karma

Some of the traffickers are desperate, some are greedy, and some are surprisingly ignorant of what they've done. Some do seem alarmingly short of human empathy, yes

evan466132 karma

They were given the freedom to choose what they wanted to do? Are you saying they were both rescued?

21BenRandall475 karma

Initially, both asked to be rescued, and we planned rescues for both girls, but neither rescue went according to plan.

Ultimately, one girl escaped by herself. The other changed her mind, and was unable to leave her daughter

slardybartfast8116 karma

Answer like that seems to me to indicate at least one chose to stay with their child

21BenRandall345 karma

Yes. As you can imagine it was an incredibly difficult decision for the girls. One took a full year to decide, ultimately deciding to remain in China for the sake of her baby girl - essentially, sacrificing her own freedom

R____I____G____H___T35 karma

Ever thought about how these traffickers ended up morally bankrupt?

21BenRandall101 karma

In some cases it's desperation, and in others, it's sheer greed

blueforrule989 karma

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?

21BenRandall1538 karma

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

oskopnir270 karma

How common is trafficking in Northern Vietnam? I was in Sapa a few months ago, I'm just wondering if the people I met there are at high risk of being trafficked specifically because of the area they live in, or if it's a phenomenon that affects a larger area.

21BenRandall377 karma

It's extremely common - it's just that the locals don't often speak about it to tourists. One of my friends there counted 20+ girls that she knew personally who had been trafficked.

Of the group of 10 girls I knew in Sapa, 5 of them were trafficked (4 into marriage, 1 into prostitution).

Having said that, it does occur all along the border, and some areas are much harder hit than Sapa.

There are a combination of factors that make those areas ideal targets for traffickers - there's the proximity to China, the fact that the people are from ethnic minorities who tend to be poor, poorly educated and powerless, whose parents might not even have a birth certificate or photograph of their daughter to identify her to authorities - and in the case of the Hmong people, they also have a tradition of marriage by abduction which facilitates the cross-border abductions

periscope-suks66 karma

OP better not be a trafficker

21BenRandall224 karma

Funnily enough, at a certain point I did actually consider becoming a trafficker myself, to help my friends bring their babies home (which, legally, seemed extremely difficult if not impossible).

Ultimately, however, it wasn't necessary.

sweetsummerchild97958 karma

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

21BenRandall1957 karma

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

biscaynebystander679 karma

Why didn't they want het back?

21BenRandall1709 karma

There were several reasons.

Her community is a very traditional one and - as /u/thiney49 guessed - having lost her virginity, she'd lost much of her value to society.

There's also a lot of victim-blaming of returned girls, and suspicion (sometimes the victims become the traffickers, returning only to traffic other girls). Which makes life even more challenging for the girls who do genuinely want to return.

Partly also - as /u/Ccracked guessed - her family actually respected the fact that she'd been sold to her "husband", although they were not involved and did not receive any money.

And part of it was the girl's own fault - she didn't want her family to worry about her, so (at the same time she was telling me the truth about her situation, and how desperate she was to come home) she told her family she was fine, that her "husband" was a nice guy with a big house and lots of money. They were poor farmers who couldn't give her a better life at home in Vietnam, so they told her to stay there

Matti_Matti_Matti317 karma

They might have been the ones who sold her.

21BenRandall246 karma

For a long time I suspected that someone in the family had been involved in selling her, but that turned out not to be the case

Notrealone33247 karma

I think it's because of cultural beliefs that marriage is a lifelong bond and cannot be left. I am just assuming though, these kind of things happen a lot in my native country Nepal, where girls are sold in India as prostitutes, housemaids or brides. Their family doesn't accept them back because of the stigma, they want to accept their daughter back but they cannot because if they do the whole society will backfire and in some cases even kick them out of the community. It's really heartbreaking to see girls who escaped prostitution have to go back to it again because they have no other way to feed themselves

21BenRandall302 karma

I spent six months in Nepal and sadly, you're right - Nepal-India situation is in many ways very similar to the Vietnam-China situation. It's tragic when the girls aren't welcome back home, and have nowhere else to go

FrivolousTracklights50 karma

And the other one?

21BenRandall201 karma

The other one was welcomed home by her family

doomlite900 karma

What are some red flags that someone has been trafficked?

21BenRandall333 karma

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

Baelim751 karma

What kind of people were your friends captors?

21BenRandall1937 karma

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

Hulgar49 karma

How can they get away with having a slave bride if they are just ordinary guys? What if she just went to the police?

21BenRandall219 karma

The girl is in a strange country, where she has no legal status. She entered illegally. If she approaches the police, she doesn't know if she'll be treated as a victim or a criminal. I've heard of both situations occurring.

In any case, by the time a girl is sold into marriage, she has passed through a trafficking network which has often terrified her into silence

arafdi47 karma

I saw a Vice documentary once about people in China literally advertising themselves/family members for marriage in parks/events. They assess each other based on age, attractiveness, work, money, etc.

Pretty depressing tbh.

21BenRandall55 karma

Yes, this is very common. In many parks in China you can see these kinds of advertisements. We filmed some for the documentary

jmw7442 karma

The "one child" policy is not what changes the balance of men and women population. It's the culture of girls being seen as financial burden. Girls will be aborted at much higher rate with or without "one child" policy.

21BenRandall56 karma

It was the Chinese "one-child" policy in combination with a strong cultural preference for boys. Given the opportunity, I'm sure most Chinese couples would be happy to have a combination of boys and girls as their children. When forced to have only one child, a majority will choose a boy.

A son will continue the family name, and take care of his parents in their old age. A daughter will essentially be married out of the family

Potatoecrisp3 karma

The one child policy was for han Chinese, ethnic minorities could have more than one child. The policy could be broken with a fine if you had additional children. The "market" for brides must be drastically falling now due to the sporadic increase in births.

21BenRandall2 karma

Unfortunately the imbalance doesn't seem to be correcting itself as hoped - and even if it does, it will take another generation to do so

85_squats481 karma

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?

21BenRandall282 karma

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

gbsolo12481 karma

How old were they when they were taken?

21BenRandall968 karma

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

Turbo_Offender436 karma

How did you find your friends?

21BenRandall953 karma

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

readball323 karma

Even after I was able to contact the girls, though, they had absolutely no idea where they were.

No smartphone around? (gps)

21BenRandall477 karma

Yes - one of my friends did have a smartphone, and this was one of the ways we tried to locate her.

In the end, however, we couldn't do it - and not for technological reasons, but because neither my friend or I could read Chinese, and we couldn't work out the settings on her phone.

/u/TheOtherMatt /u/xis_id_syrt

SpoonFed276433 karma

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

21BenRandall733 karma

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"

annieisawesome272 karma

This part baffles me. Even given that there is a shortage of women in China, why on Earth would you want to be "married" to someone who despises you, someone whom you need to lock up or threaten to keep them around? That's not a marriage, and I feel like it would only serve to make the man feel even more lonely and shitty that his wife hates him. Wouldn't it be better to just be single?

21BenRandall551 karma

Ultimately, the "husbands" don't seem particularly interested in having a wife, as such. There's often a lot of pressure from their parents to continue the family.

The girl is not there to be a wife as we understand the term in the West. She's basically there as a baby-making machine. Her own thoughts and feelings don't really come into play

redmoqorro253 karma

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.

21BenRandall550 karma

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

Zess_Crowfield109 karma

You are a goddamn martyr mate. Kudos to you, please don't give up on them.

I am not a good person so I don't qualify on this kinds of job but what foundation do you recommend us donating into.

21BenRandall49 karma

Thank you. Our own organisation relies on individuals like yourself, and desperately needs support. You can help at - it's much appreciated, thanks

Doofbags241 karma

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

21BenRandall574 karma

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!)

because_zelda123 karma

That's a hard choice to make tbh. If you are sold to a man who views you as nothing but property and he fathers a female from you (the product) then he has no qualms viewing the byproduct as property as well. I dont want to imagine the life that that child is bound to have with a "father" like that.

21BenRandall117 karma

Yes and no. In the case of the daughter, it's his own flesh and blood, so he might behave differently. However in China, as in many parts of Asia, women tend to be regarded as inferior in many ways

wing03198 karma

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?

21BenRandall114 karma

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.

Sirsilentbob42368 karma

OP said in another comment that at least 5/10 were taken from a small group of girls he had met through his time there and he found out by one of the girls that were left contacting him about it.

It's a pretty serious problem. There is a large lack of women due to the previous "1 child" rule, and as men become more desperate for a bride it will likely drive more trafficking to occur.

Andromeda32138 karma

Yes but they were all girls from a very marginalized group in society (poor, illiterate, small village, etc) so they are being specifically targeted. It’s not like half of the Vietnamese women are getting kidnapped.

Assuming the question is from a Westerner, I backpacked around the area as a solo woman and never had trouble, as many other Western women do. Never heard of one disappearing into trafficking, because frankly if that was a thing the media would be all over it.

21BenRandall60 karma

You're right. Targeting tourists from Western countries generally isn't a good strategy for traffickers - it would bring too much attention to the issue.

Not to mention the fact that a Western person would be far more conspicuous, and therefore more difficult to conceal

SlashBolt165 karma

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

21BenRandall218 karma

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 [[email protected]](mailto:[email protected]) :)

mabelpinenuts94 karma

I'm a third year law student, with a heavy concentration in international law and experience volunteering. Do you require your volunteers to be based in Australia? I split time between Ireland and Austria, but I can dedicate a lot of time to this online. I'd love to help in any little way!

21BenRandall69 karma

Our team is all over the world (including another Austrian based in the UK!). We'd love to have you onboard, please get in touch :)

raengsen125 karma

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??

21BenRandall391 karma

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

12INCHVOICES74 karma

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!

21BenRandall102 karma

Thank you :)

We've just released the film - you can now check it out for $1 at 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

stevo00262 karma

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?

21BenRandall81 karma

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

Dirkinator54 karma

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

21BenRandall189 karma

/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

Liquid_fartz41 karma

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

21BenRandall80 karma

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

Chazmer8740 karma

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

21BenRandall12 karma

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

Wilburisadog31 karma

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.

21BenRandall32 karma

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 - which is a fantastic little company owned and operated by local Hmong people

Netsphere_Seeker17 karma

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?

21BenRandall29 karma

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.

Krisko1255 karma

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

21BenRandall13 karma

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