They come on their Harleys, decorated with patches, and the riders are hoping it’s a moment one person in particular will never forget.
It’s all part of a moment of an empowerment ride — the first step in a program to create a safer environment and provide support for abused children.
The group is known as Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA), and a new chapter — the first of its kind on Vancouver Island — is underway in the Comox Valley.
“A few people saw what BACA was online and started posting it on social media. They told two friends, who told two friends and it started growing,” explained Grizzly (whose name is protected by riding monikers), the president of the mid-Vancouver Island chapter of BACA.
The chapter began about a year ago, he said of the worldwide non-profit organization, and has about 19 local members.
The organization exists with the intent to empower children to not feel afraid of the world in which they live, while lending support to those in need. BACA chapters work with local agencies such as victim services and the local police to protect abused children by lending physical and emotional support to them by affiliation and presence.
Working with the law
Currently the group is in its preliminary stages, making contacts with law enforcement, various groups and working on its mission statement, added member Deedee, who said they are currently laying the groundwork for full status hopefully in the new year.
“Child abuse is in every community, all over the world,” she added, and noted BACA works with referring agencies and individuals in a four-stage process.
When a child is abused, Deedee said a referring agency determines if the child is frightened by their environment. The agency contacts BACA, and a child liaison for the group contacts the family and an initial ride is organized to meet the child at their home or at another location.
“If everything meets the requirements, we get the entire chapter together,” noted Grizzly.
“It’s quite the sight to see 20 to 30 members on their motorbikes coming down the street.”
The child is presented with their own vest with patches related to their interests, a name (no real names are used for protection) and the child is adopted into the BACA family. The child is then given the name and number of two members who become the primary contacts.
Level II: Campout
If the first level of intervention is not sufficient to deter further harassment, several BACA members will be sent to create a visual presence for further exposure.
“Because some cases go on for weeks, we can camp outside the home,” explained Grizzly.
Deedee noted their presence lets the abuser know their intent is to protect and empower the child, and to ensure they are safe and secure.
“A lot of planning goes into this, because we don’t want to put any more stress on the child.”
If the physical presence of members does not deter the perpetrator, level three intervention can be enacted, said Grizzly. This involves writing a formal letter drafted by the chapter president or vice-president, written on BACA letterhead, to explain to the perpetrator members are prepared to become the obstacle to further abuse.
“We want to send a message (to the abuser) that we’re here for these kids, so go away,” added Deedee.
Level four intervention involves a neighbour awareness ride in which members will ride to the general location of the offender, and distribute stickers to kids, going door to door to distribute literature regarding their mission and how the group functions.
BACA members also attend court to show support and solidarity.
“There’s a certain level of safety (for the child) to see our presence and feel less intimidated,” noted Grizzly. “There’s even been cases in the U.S. where BACA members escort families to and from the courthouse.”
Anyone interested in joining BACA can do so as a full member or support member. In order to join, a potential member must complete a criminal background check, complete a probation period and have excellent attendance at meetings.
“Full patch members much be 200 per cent committed. It’s an absolute lifestyle about empowering children,” said Deedee. “Child abuse does not happen 60 per cent of the time.”
Grizzly added members must be willing to go anywhere within the chapter area, but BACA does not claim territory.
Deedee added BACA’s mission is all about giving strength back to children.
“It’s amazing to see this idea of a big bad biker guy all in leather get to their knees on the same level of children and (the kids) pick up their energy really quickly; they don’t have the same perceptions as adults. We’re not there to rescue or fix everything for them, but to empower them.”
For more information about BACA, visit www.canada.bacaworld.org, or for more information on the local chapter, email Grizzly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Continued on Page A4