Bikers Against Child Abuse speak to Exchange Club
Published 7:00 am Saturday, October 19, 2019
(This story has been updated to correct the origin of this organization and clarify that B.A.C.A. members do keep lines of communication open with the child at the conclusion of the court case for as long as the child needs.)
Clad in leather vests, jeans and boots, bikers can be intimidating to those who don’t know there is a caring person underneath.
And that perception can be an advantage when advocating against child abuse.
Formed in 1995 by a licensed clinical social worker at Brigham Young University in Utah, Bikers Against Child Abuse serve as a barrier between the suspect and the victim in child abuse cases. While it was founded in Utah, chapters are spreading across the world, with one in Pearl River County comprised of nine members who currently work three cases. Four more cases are pending for the local chapter, said local B.A.C.A. member Charlie Stuart, whose road name is “Serious.”
Even though they wear matching patches and have a common goal, members of B.A.C.A. don’t consider themselves to be part of a “biker gang,” Stuart said.
But, he and his fellow members volunteer their time to support the victims of child abuse cases. That could include showing up for court dates, visiting the child while at school or even sitting outside the home 24/7 to deter the accused from visiting the victim’s home if that threat is perceived.
Even though the non-profit organization was founded by a therapist, B.A.C.A. members don’t provide therapy services. But they do provide children under their watch with a sense of belonging and confidence that someone cares. Instead he described their interaction with the child to be more like equine therapy.
“We’re not therapists, but we can be the horse,” Stuart said.
Stuart said that in order for B.A.C.A. to become involved in a case, a legal guardian has to call the organization. Within 24 hours, the guardian will be contacted and limited information concerning the case is compiled. Stuart said it’s not the place of B.A.C.A. to know every detail of a child abuse case, all they need to know is a child is in need.
Once the case has been reviewed and accepted by the board of organization, the child is then given the choice to join or not. If the child agrees, a special ceremony with as many members from as many chapters as possible is held where the child is inducted into the B.A.C.A. family. That child then gets to pick out the patch that will go on his or her vest and they are provided with a stuffed biker bear filled with the love of the B.A.C.A. family. Each child also gets to pick their club road name.
There are no dues to be a member of B.A.C.A., but dedication and time is a must. Prospective members also need access to a motorcycle, either as a rider or passenger, and undergo a background check. Most B.A.C.A. members don’t interact with children on a regular basis, and those that do undergo training to ensure they can do so properly.
“We’re there to help that child become a kid again,” Stuart said.
B.A.C.A.’s focus is to ensure the child knows that someone is there for them when they need them, not act as form of retribution.
“We do not condone the use of violence or physical force in any manner, however, if circumstances arise such that we are the only obstacle preventing a child from further abuse, we stand ready to be that obstacle,” states the organization’s mission statement.
Stuart said that means vigilante justice is not an option, or revenge of any kind, for B.A.C.A. members. For the most part, members are involved until the conclusion of the court case, at which point the case is classified as inactive. But even after the case concludes, the lines of communication remain open for as long as the child needs help from B.A.C.A.
Interaction with the child can include age appropriate play time. Stuart said he’s been known to leave such play sessions with painted fingernails.
To learn more about B.A.C.A. call 601-337-6331 or 1866-71-ABUSE. The organization’s website is www.bacaworld.org.