Tap and Mercy are members of the
Bikers Against Child Abuse motorcycle group
in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
Photograph by: Gord Waldner , The StarPhoenix
I discovered today that the story link in my original post back in May about Bikers Against Child Abuse (B.A.C.A.) no longer worked. I do think, however, that their story has to be told and retold because it says so much about child abuse, safety, healing, and caring.
B.A.C.A. was formed in 1995, spearheaded and founded by Chief (all B.A.C.A. members go by their road names) in response to hearing about an eight year old boy who was so frightened of his abuser that he refused to leave his home. Chief recruited his biker buddies and befriended the boy. Within weeks, the boy was again venturing out, riding his bike and playing with his friends.
B.A.C.A. has grown worldwide since then, including a Canadian chapter in Saskatoon, where Tap (seen above on the left) is the Chapter President.
B.A.C.A. members are real bikers, and some have a criminal past, but to become a member they have to pass a criminal record check and anyone with a history of child abuse or domestic violence is refused. B.A.C.A. also has a strict rule that at least one of the members present with a child has to be the same sex, so B.A.C.A. has both male and female members.
B.A.C.A. prospects have to take training from approved child mental health professionals as part of their year-long indoctrination into the club.
When a child has been abused and is frightened, family members or guardians can call their local B.A.C.A. chapter who will then verify the abuse through the court system, police department, or social services agencies. Once a child is accepted into the B.A.C.A. program, the chapter organizes a ride with all members rolling out to the child's home.
The child is introduced to the B.A.C.A. members and told who they are and what they do. B.A.C.A. then gives the child their own kutte - a vest with a B.A.C.A. patch on the back and the child's new road name embroidered on the front - they are then patched in as a member of the club. Unlike most motorcycle clubs that require members to wear their kuttes with pride, child members can choose to wear them or not - some not wanting to due to the stigma of having been abused.
In Saskatoon at the membership ceremony, B.A.C.A. members each hug a teddy bear and it is given to the child who is told that the bikers have put their love and caring into the bear, and when they're scared, they can hug the bear and feel that love and caring and know that their biker brothers and sisters are there for them.
But it doesn't stop there.
The child is then given two bikers as their own and is given their cell phone numbers and told they can call on them any time, day or night. Those bikers belong to that child for as long as the child wants.
Assigned B.A.C.A. members are called upon to fill many roles; sometimes it's simply a matter of riding their bikes past the child's home at bedtime - their Harley's thundering past, letting the child know that they are there for them always.
B.A.C.A. members have been called by children to spend time with them when they are home alone while their parents are at work; to walk them to school and home again; even to escort their school bus on their Harleys. At times B.A.C.A. members will stand on guard outside a child's home all night to help them feel safe.
But perhaps the most important duty B.A.C.A. members have is to be with the child for any court appearances. If a child has to testify against their abuser, B.A.C.A. members form a protective circle around the child and escort them to the witness stand. They will then fill the front row of the courtroom and tell the child to look at them, not at their abuser when they testify. Once the child is finished testifying, B.A.C.A. again forms a circle around the child and escorts him or her home.
"When a child is in a courtroom, their monster is in there with them." Tap told a reporter outside the Saskatoon courthouse in May, 2013, "But with us there, the child thinks 'I have my own monsters and mine are bigger and meaner than you are'."
If an abuser continues to harass or intimidate a child, B.A.C.A. members will organize a ride to the abuser's neighbourhood where they will post flyers and visit all the abuser's neighbours, explaining who they are, what they do, and why they are there.
Despite the biker stereotype, B.A.C.A. has a strict non-violence policy. If an abuser ever confronts a B.A.C.A. member, their policy is to walk away. That is of course, so long as the abuser doesn't try to hurt the child.
"We're kind of like barbed wire around the child." Tap said, "And if you try to get to that child ... well, you figure it out."
One of the most important things an abuser steals from a child victim is their sense of safety. B.A.C.A. gives that safety back. But B.A.C.A. gives more; acceptance of the child as a valued person; validation that what happened to them WAS a big deal and; that it wasn't their fault.
For more information on Bikers Against Child Abuse, drop by their website at Bikers Against Child Abuse International - Breaking the Chains of Abuse.
And next time you pass a biker, flash him wave - he (or she) might just be one of the good monsters.
Aaron D. McClelland, RPC - www.interiorcounselling.com/aaron