Feature Story Child advocacy in leather and chrome: Bikers Against Child Abuse | The Cullman Tribune

Feature Story

Child advocacy in leather and chrome: Bikers Against Child Abuse

W.C. Mann

Local BACA members at a community outreach event at the Highway 157 Wal-Mart

HOLLY POND - When children are the victims of abuse, even the arrest or removal of the abuser may not make everything right.  They often continue to live in fear of the abuser’s return.  In too many cases, that fear is well-founded; abusers often disregard restraining orders to intimidate their victims into silence and, in some cases, even attempt to continue the abuse.  That’s where the bikers from Holly Pond step in, literally.

The east Cullman County town is home to Alabama’s only chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA), a child advocacy organization that comes at the task from a decidedly different direction.  Its members are, obviously, bikers: patches and vests, noisy chrome-trimmed Harleys, the works.  When they walk into the room, they get everyone’s attention in a no-nonsense, purposefully intimidating way.  And they take pride in making abusers think twice about messing with kids.

BACA, according to its mission statement, “exists with the intent to create a safer environment for abused children.  We exist as a body of bikers to empower children to not feel afraid of the world in which they live . . . We desire 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 our physical presence.  We stand at the ready to shield these children from further abuse.”

The Hurricane Creek Chapter has been around for eight years, but has been on a recent push to introduce itself and get the word out about its work. They’ve been attending local community festivals and town council meetings around the county.  The Tribune caught up with the bikers at an outreach day at the Highway 157 Wal-Mart in Cullman and spoke with chapter President Keith “Blind Dog” Williams.

“Our job is to empower children to not be afraid,” said Williams.  “We go to court with them, to all their court proceedings, if we’re invited in.  It’s just to empower them and show them that they’re just as strong as anybody, as long as they’ve got somebody to stand up with them.”

Bikers invited into court?  Yes!  BACA is not a vigilante group.

Williams explained, “I’ve had women call and say, ‘Will y’all take my husband out and . . .’  No, we don’t do that.  We do everything the legal way.  Everybody has to be NCIC (criminal background check) cleared through the FBI.  We have strict training for at least a year, and a minimum of 15 months riding before they become a patched member.”

While the stereotypical biker image serves them well, BACA does not advocate the use of force.

Williams said, “We don’t believe in violence, because the children have seen enough violence.  But we will be an obstacle between the perpetrator and that child.  We’ll do whatever it takes to keep them away from the child.”

Despite their intimidating appearance, BACA members have a good relationship with law enforcement agencies and court officials.  The national organization’s founder, John Paul Lilly, is a licensed clinical social worker and registered play therapist.  He says his own experience with abused kids showed that victims who feel safe and protected are more likely to testify against their abusers and go through the legal process.

BACA members meet with client children and take them through an “adoption” ceremony.  Once “in the family,” members can provide security at the children’s homes, visit them at school and accompany them to court.  While most members are not trained therapists or counselors, BACA maintains a therapy fund for kids who need that kind of help.

BACA is active in 49 states and 13 countries, but Hurricane Creek is currently the only chapter in Alabama.  That keeps these folks busy.

“At this time, we have nine active cases,” Williams shared.  “Right now, we’re the only chartered chapter in Alabama.  We have one that’s fixing to charter in Wedowee, and we have a chapter just across the border in Florida that helps us out in south Alabama.  Other than that, we practically cover the whole state.”

The Hurricane Creek chapter currently has 14 active members with another 18 in training. 

“I love children,” said Williams.  “I’ve always loved working with children.  We have members who’ve been through abuse when they were growing up.  There’s several different reasons people join.  Everybody volunteers their time to do this.  Nobody in this organization ever gets paid.  It’s all voluntary, just a bunch of big-hearted bikers.”

BACA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.  For more information on the national organization, visit www.bacaworld.org.  Contact the Hurricane Creek chapter at 256-636-2453 or email baca4hcc@hotmail.com.

 

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  • W.C. Mann