by WHITNEY HIGGINSON
I never thought I would be able to call a biker a role model.
I’ve seen Underbelly, Bikie Wars and have watched numerous news reports on turf wars and residential shootings. Needless to say, one look at a biker tends to makes me want to run in the opposite direction in fear for my safety.
Their tattoos are intimidating, they look fearsome, they have weapons and they are always in a gang – some would call that a checklist for disaster. Ask any little kid and they will tell you that nobody messes with bikers.
But now a group of bikers in the US are using their ‘tough guy’ image for good: to help out victims of child abuse.
At any time, anywhere, for as long as it takes a child who has been a victim of abuse to feel safe again, members of the BACA (Bikers Against Child Abuse) group will stand by them in their vests and on their motorcycles.
The bikers act as emotional armour for a child: giving them a clear visual representation of safety and security – to help combat the feelings of helplessness and vulnerability they make have developed as a result of abuse.
A child who has been abused knows what it’s like to be vulnerable and insecure. BACA shifts that mentality by providing a network of bigger and stronger people to make a child feel protected.
A child is inducted into BACA by receiving a biker road name and matching vest, helmet and bandana. Two bikers are then assigned as “primaries” and are available 24 hours a day through a mobile phone.
Imagine being one of those little kids – you’d feel pretty sure that so long as your tough friends are around, you’re well and truly out of harm’s way.
AZ Central reports that if the person who hurt the child calls or drives by, or even if the child feels threatened – the bikers are on call and will ride over and stand guard all night, taking shifts:
Biker Sassy and the girl text every day, back and forth. The girl carries a coin with the BACA logo on it with her always, turning it in her palm, running her fingers along its edges. But when she sleeps, her mind is vulnerable to the memories of what happened. She is torn out of her slumber, terrified and calling out for her parents.
So bikers Rembrandt and Tool pull up to the little girl’s house at 8 p.m., park their motorcycles in the driveway and knock on the door. Sometimes a stakeout is to calm fear and build trust.
“I told her that we were going to stay there for the night, so she would know that there was no way anyone was going to get past us to hurt her,” Rembrandt says.
The girl came outside a few times to make sure the men were all right, or maybe to check that they were still there. Before she went to bed, she brought out an ice-cream sandwich for Rembrandt, a popsicle for Tool and a big bowl of popcorn for them to share.
The men talked low in the dark until 2 a.m., when the sound of more motorcycles rattled the quiet street. Mo Money and Bigg Dogg pulled up, ready to take the next shift.
When Rhythm woke up, she looked out the window and called to her mother, “Mom, they’re still here!”
“The whole backbone of what BACA does is showing up,” Rembrandt says. “We show up when we say we are going to show up, and we do what we say we are going to do.
Smiling, she tells them she slept, the entire night, with not one nightmare, nestled under the blanket the bikers filled with love.
Child abuse leaves psychological and emotional effects that often last a lifetime. All members of BACA are trained by a licensed mental-health professionals and undergo extensive criminal background checks – the same ones required for law enforcement.
Perhaps what is most admirable about BACA is that the bikers provide the service for free. Many of the bikers involved have had personal experiences with child abuse and are determined to do what they can to ease the recovery of these kids.
BACA members give 5, 10, 20 or more hours a week. They don’t receive reimbursement for the petrol they use or the time they need to take off work. They disrupt their sleeping patterns, their personal life and in some cases, will drive between states to ensure a child feels safe.
These bikers prove that even the toughest men (with beards, and belts, and studs, and tatts and all the rest) still have a soft spot for a little kid in trouble. And that maybe, next time, we should all think twice before making assumptions about someone because of how they look.