Thursday, June 14, 2012

Examiner.com Article - Local heroes offer victims of child abuse hope and empowerment



Bikers Against Child Abuse International (BACA) was founded by John Paul ‘Chief’ Lilly, a licensed clinical social worker who serves as faculty at Brigham Young University working with abused children. Chief identified several gaps in the system that hindered a child’s ability to heal in the aftermath of abuse, first being safety for the children and second, funding for therapy.  

Determined to ensure no perpetrator who has victimized a child should make the child feel powerless, Chief put thoughts into action and rallied bikers in his community to join him in an effort to protect children. In 1995, the first ride to visit wounded children and adopt them into the biker community was organized by Chief in Utah. Word travelled fast and bikers throughout the country embraced the mission. BACA now has presence in nearly every state in the U.S. with two BACA chapters in Arizona.


BACA is a volunteer organization whose members include people from every occupation, including but not limited to business owners, law enforcement officers, construction workers, teachers, doctors, media personalities, you name it. Even rockers like Dee Snider, former lead singer of Twisted Sister sports a BACA patch. The only individuals not permitted into BACA membership are child abusers and pedophiles. Fingerprint and background tests are conducted on all BACA members.

Phoenix child is victim of rape
A young teen-age girl becomes the victim of a rape in Phoenix while babysitting for her neighbor’s young child. Only doors away from her own home, the parents of the toddler she regularly babysat for raped the young teen in twisted, disgusting fashion. Mom and daughter received death threats if they reported the incident to authorities; they were intimidated and harassed. After telling her mother what had occurred, and fearing for her daughter’s life, the mother immediately reported the incident to local authorities. Forced to relocate fearing for their safety, the mother wishes her and her daughter’s identities remained anonymous for this report.  

“This experience has completely changed our lives,” says Mom.  “Living in fear and dealing with the emotional aftermath of crime can be very isolating.” Without help from state Crime Victim Relocation Assistance, the pair forced to move into anonymity, they find themselves constantly looking over their shoulder in fear to make sure the perpetrators do not follow them to their new home.  “Watching your child suffer from trauma is unimaginable but I do not think people realize the additional challenges families face in the aftermath of crime,” Mom adds.

Emotional trauma is not the only challenge faced by families attempting to heal from the effects of violent crime. Victimization affects entire families with increased expenses, loss of work and de-stabilization of the family core. For this single mother, who has been self-employed for twenty years and hit hard by the economic crisis, resources to help stabilize have been minimal. Trying to pay the bills has become an additional source of stress as Mom attempts to balance caring for her daughter now diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), requiring intensive treatment. “A parent can’t choose between saving your child’s life, ensuring your child is receiving the appropriate medical care and working twelve hours a day to survive because caring for your child become your full-time job,” says Mom.

From helpless to healing
After calling local, state, federal and social service agencies throughout Arizona and receiving little assistance, Mom received a referral to what she thought was a somewhat unconventional resource. Mom’s friend, a former Special Agent for the FBI gave her the number for the Maricopa County Chapter of BACA.

Bikers Against Child Abuse making a difference in the lives of children.
“I was at a point of feeling beyond helpless,” says Mom. Following the advice of her friend, she called BACA and reached a comforting voice on the other end of the phone. The woman introduced herself by the name of Sassy. “Hearing her voice I immediately knew I reached someone who understood our plight.” They scheduled a time to meet in person.  

All BACA members go by nicknames. Pipes is a man over 6ft tall and President of the Maricopa County Chapter of BACA, accompanied by Sassy, BACA Treasurer and Child Liaison, arrived at the mother and daughter’s home to assess how BACA could help. “We offer families support services to ensure the child feels safe and empowered,” says Sassy. “We welcome the victim and their family into our BACA family and walk beside the child for the long haul to help them feel safe, promote healing and gain strength, especially important if the child must  face their abuser(s) in court.”


BACA touches the life of Phoenix child
On the afternoon of June 3, 2012, approximately 20 BACA members roared into the apartment complex where the young teen and her mother live. Out walks a tiny sixteen year old barely 4’ ft. 9” and 90 lbs. She is accompanied by several friends and family members to greet her visitors as they get off their motorcycles. Neighbors begin peeking out their windows.

Pipes, President of Arizona BACA reassuring the child victim she now
has a new family to watch over her.
The BACA members, both men and women, lined up in single file to introduce themselves to the child and her mother. Along with Pipes and Sassy, there was Dom, Harmony, Rembrandt, Rock, Uno, and on and on until all made their introduction. What followed brought grown men to tears.

Pipes, who towers over most grown men, bent over to tell the young girl she no longer has to live in fear, and to look out at each of the members who are now her family. They present her with a vest complete with her new BACA name – “Feisty” - and then Harmony, a beautiful woman with black hair wearing a leather vest gently ties a BACA doo rag to Feisty’s head. They proceed to pass a blanket with the BACA logo around to each member to fill it with love. Each member, some wearing doo rags, some with long beards and tattoos, hug the blanket tight then pass it to the next member.  Filled with the love from the big hearts of volunteer bikers dedicated to helping children heal from abuse, they presented the blanket to Feisty as tears ran down the faces of onlookers.

Harmony, member of BACA ties Feisty's doo rag as Feisty
 holds her love filled BACA blanket.
The teens’s great Uncle, a veteran of the United States Army, with tears in his eyes said, “This is probably the most awesome group of volunteers I have ever met. The support they are giving Feisty is immeasurable,” the Uncle said. “It was a feeling of brotherhood that I have not felt for years and you know they have your back covered.”

Embraced by a new family, Feisty now has someone she can call or text 24-hours a day. Mom says she has already noticed a big difference in her daughter. “She feels empowered and is transitioning from victim into a young lady who is empowered to seek justice for herself and others because she no longer feels alone and powerless,” says Mom.



More about BACA
Prior to accepting any case, information provided by the victim’s parent or caretaker is then verified with the investigating law enforcement agency. Case information is verified by utilizing various methods such as speaking to the detective, reviewing police reports, court transcripts, and medical records if necessary. Two BACA members are present when meeting with the child at all times.

BACA is not a group of biker vigilantes. BACA is a 501c3 nonprofit organization run by volunteers who care about children. Donations to the organization help finance everything from paying for therapy by licensed practitioners to activities the help empower a child such as karate lessons, horseback riding, cheerleading camp, even driving the child to appointments.

Raising public awareness, BACA members organize public events to educate the public of the epidemic of child abuse. The organization works cooperatively with law enforcement agencies throughout the country. At times they are even accompanied by police escorts during public activities or visits to homes of children, to ensure the public they have nothing to fear from this tough looking group of individuals riding motorcycles into their neighborhoods.

After the initial assessment and meeting with the victim and family, BACA has various levels of intervention.
·         Level 1 Intervention consists of deploying a ride to the victim’s home, showing physical presence, and holding a ceremony that inducts the child into the BACA family, ensuring the victim they are not alone.  Two BACA members are assigned to the child as primary contacts and available 24 hours a day to provide support should the child experience fear or just need to talk.

·         Level 2 Intervention includes assigning BACA members to provide visible security at the home of the victim to ensure the victim’s safety and deter further abuse.

·         Level 3 Intervention may be carried out if Level 2 has not served as a deterrent to the perpetrator.  Level 3 can include written contact on BACA letterhead addressed to the perpetrator to deter additional intimidation or harassment of the child.

·         Level 4 Intervention could include conducting a Neighborhood Awareness Ride in the general location of the perpetrator to hand out stickers and literature to families to help deter an abuser from claiming additional victims and raising awareness of those that live in the general vicinity and may be at risk of victimization. BACA does not condone or support use of aggression. 

If the child requests BACA physical presence in the courtroom, BACA members will also accompany victim to court appearances to help prevent the child feeling intimidated or frightened while having to testify.

For more information or to make a donation to Bikers Against Child Abuse please visit http://arizona.bacaworld.org/

Author – Kym L. Pasqualini
Founder, National Center for Missing Adults

riter for Examiner.com