Monday, August 21st, 2006
Bikers Against Child Abuse: Helping Kids Feel Safe
Update 7 months later: See photos from my nephew’s sixth birthday party attended by BACA.
Original article: My 5-year-old nephew is in a tough spot. While visiting with him last Christmas, as we played together with his new toys, he asked me, “Why are you playing with me?” The question stunned me.
As this year has worn on, a suspected pattern of physical and/or mental abuse has developed. His mom is now filing for complete custody, and currently has it because his father has refused to meet with Child Welfare Services investigators.
Our greatest fear is the life-long damage already inflicted upon my nephew. In school, he acts out in extreme ways, has been bullying classmates and has few friends.
Recently, something extraordinary happened. A new family adopted my nephew, Bikers Against Child Abuse International (BACA). No less than fifty leather-clad bikers roared up to his home to introduce themselves. They call it a Level 1 Intervention, or “child ride.” It’s done at the request of the family and only in cases of documented abuse.
The bikers removed their sunglasses, walked up to my nephew, bent down on one knee and told him he didn’t need to be afraid anymore.
“We let the entire neighborhood know, within the sounds of the pipes of
our bikes, who we are and that this child is with us.” –John Paul Chief
Lilly, BACA founder.
The group is a support system wrapped around a show of force. My nephew was told he could call on them any time he doesn’t feel safe. They will stand outside his front door or inside his home or at his bedside. They will escort him to and from school. They will make their presence known in the neighborhood. When he’s on the witness stand, his BACA family will be in the room with him. In an emergency, the group uses a phone chain, calling each other to summon as many BACA members as needed.
Lest this sound like a vigilante movement, know that the group works with local law enforcement agencies and has rigid protocols documented on its web site. The group is a nonprofit organization with chapters in 30 states and two Australian provinces. Bikers undergo a background check and ride with the group for a year before joining by a unanimous vote of the local chapter’s board of directors.
First and foremost, the bikers are there to comfort my nephew. I suppose I should be calling him Cookie. That’s his new road name. “Frog” and “Mama T” are his primary contacts, the bikers who live closest to him. They will assess his support needs in the coming months. While most needs involve a physical presence, there is also a therapy assistance fund when a family has no where else to turn.
After the group arrived on Saturday, Cookie walked around to each biker for introductions, being told each biker’s road name. “Spurs” and “Ducky” are the local chapter’s president and vice president. “Scooter” was Cookie’s liaison when his mom first contacted the group. Only Scooter, Frog and Mama T know the particulars of Cookie’s situation and his real name.
Some of the bikers gave Cookie stickers, bubbles or other small toys. Then he was shown the motorcycles and offered a seat on any of them, or a ride if he desired (they brought a child-size helmet).
Mama T and Frog presented Cookie with a denim vest, leather bracelet and black twin-size blanket bearing the red and white BACA logo. A group picture was taken with a Polaroid camera and after about an hour his new family rumbled on.
“We love you and we will do whatever it takes to make you feel safe again. We’re here if you need us.” –One of Cookie’s new friends.
Frog and Mama T will check in once a month. Hopefully the initial intervention is all Cookie needs — that, and for the court system to give sole custody to his mother so that the healing may begin.
I asked Cookie what he thought of the whole experience with the bikers. He replied, “They make me feel safe and happy.”
Update 7 months later: A nice photo of “Animal” and “Cookie” at Cookie’s sixth birthday party.