With Thanksgiving just right around the corner, there is no better time to highlight the work of Bikers Against Child Abuse International, Inc. (B.A.C.A.), a group that deserves utmost recognition and praise for what they have pledged to do. Embracing the very stereotype that has been created for them, this group of bikers creatively use their image to empower children who are victims of abuse.
In the United States, over 6 million children are victims of child abuse. Approximately 3 million reports are made annually, and they sometimes involve multiple children—one report is made every 10 seconds. What is more, greater than 80% of the cases involve the parent as the perpetrator. In addition to the physical harm, children who are victims of abuse also suffer psychological harm—much of which can be permanent. Such conditions include depression, withdrawal symptoms, anti-social behavior (e.g., personality disorders and violent behavior). It has also been observed that children who are abused are more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs.
With the serious emotional scars created in these situations, B.A.C.A. members are helping to fill a gap that not even the law can fully address. B.A.C.A.’s mission is “to help the children and their families learn how powerful they can be.” The group seeks to “to create a safer environment for abused children…to empower children to not feel afraid of the world in which they live.…to lend support to our wounded friends by involving them with an established, united organization…to send a clear message to all involved with the abused child that this child is part of our organization, and that we are prepared to lend our physical and emotional support to them by affiliation, and [B.A.C.A. members’] physical presence…[to] stand at the ready to shield these children from further abuse.” They have more than 120 chapters and across 43 states in the U.S. and in Australia.
“[R]ecognized and authorized agencies” work with B.A.C.A. to help identify the children and to pair them up with B.A.C.A. members. The “initial ride” consists of the child meeting the entire B.A.C.A. chapter and receiving from them the a vest with the organization’s insignia (which the child can decide to wear or not), bumper stickers, and other gifts of support like teddy bears. The bikers carry friendly names like Bear, Cannon, Hulk, Fat Daddy, Cue Ball, Goofy, Tink, Grumpy, Pipes, Hippie, Mo Money, Uno, Smiley, and Nytro. The child also receives a name. In effect, the child becomes part of the organization.
The child is then assigned to two B.A.C.A. members who pledge to be available 24/7 as long as the child needs B.A.C.A. The child is provided with their phone numbers so that whenever the child feels afraid or needs them, s/he can call them. The child’s “new B.A.C.A. family” will drive to the child’s house and “provide the necessary reassurance” to allow the child to “feel safe and protected.” This can take the form of “providing escorts for them if they feel scared in their neighborhoods; riding by their homes on a regular basis; supporting the children at court and parole hearings; attending their interviews, and; staying with the children if they are alone and frightened.” (For more information on how they work, click here)
Acknowledging the importance of testimony at court hearings and their intimidating environment, B.A.C.A. members accompany children to court at their request. The aim is for children to feel more empowered and less frightened and help them provide a more accurate testimony. They have been known to “create a wall” by the child, fill the courtroom, squeeze into pews, and line the walls.
The group was created in 1995 by John Paul Lilly, a social worker, play therapist, and professor at Brigham Young University. To date, they have helped closed to 1,200 children.
A tip of the hat to you all, B.A.C.A. members. Thank you for everything that you do.
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The views reflected in this blog are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law or Georgetown University. This blog is solely informational in nature, and not intended as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed and retained attorney in your state or country.