By Linda Kor
A child who has suffered physical, mental or sexual abuse may feel isolated, frightened and reluctant to face an abuser in court, but that child can now feel a sense of safety and empowerment, thanks to an unlikely ally.
BACA (Bikers Against Child Abuse) is an international organization of bikers whose primary objective is to empower children who have been abused. When called upon, these men and women arrive on the scene with their roaring motorcycles, wearing leather jackets, tattoos, do-rags and dark sunglasses in an impressive display of intimidation, but with a message of love and protection. The vests they wear bear the name BACA over a closed fist with the slogan, “No child deserves to live in fear.”
Operating in eight countries with 162 chapters in 42 states, the members work with state and local agencies that are already in place to help children. One chapter, in Maricopa County, reaches beyond its borders to help children in other counties, including Navajo County.
These riders forgo their real names, choosing instead monikers that add to their super hero persona. One of these members, known as Nytro, is a business owner who has been married 32 years and is the mother of three. Nytro has been a BACA member for six years and she makes it clear that these riders are not vigilantes out for justice, but are there to protect the victims.
“Our focus is strictly on our kids in our organization, to help them to stand tall, not ashamed or scared, to tell their story of what happened to them in court. Whether justice is properly served on the abusers or not, it’s what these precious little innocent heroes do; what BACA showing up for them does,” stated Nytro.
In a recent response to a child in need, the BACA riders could be seen driving along Highway 77; an entourage that included a shiny black SUV with dark tinted windows and bright chrome, with two bikers riding in front and 11 riders taking up the rear, encircling their precious cargo–a girl on her way to testify in court against her assailant, a man who had been her stepfather.
Although unaware they were coming, Judge John Lamb of the Navajo County Superior Court was impressed by the group and how they conducted themselves in court.
“I hadn’t seen them before and at first I thought they were there for the defendant, but quickly saw by their behavior that they were there for the girl,” said the judge.
Lamb explained how difficult it could be for victims to speak out against their abusers, especially when that person is across the room staring at them.
“They (BACA) were sitting all around her and when she had the opportunity to speak, she was very loud and forceful. Then when she was done, she walked out of the room and they all got up with her and left, they didn’t wait around for the sentencing. It was a very nice gesture,” he continued.
BACA’s mission statement notes, “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.”
Once called upon, the riders come out in force, arriving at a child’s home with a promise to stand guard and protect that child from the person who harmed him or her. That could mean providing an escort to court, standing guard outside the home, sometimes overnight, or even a ride to and from school.
These children are not only protected by the BACA members, they become one of them. Each BACA child gets a sleeveless jean jacket with a road name the bikers picked for them, a patch that says, “I will not live in fear” and another that reads, “I’m in the family.”
There is no charge for the service and BACA members will serve any child in need up to the age of 18, but that doesn’t mean that as adults these survivors forget the impression BACA left on them.
“A lot have become members, to pay it forward. Some kids that have gone through their trials are now adults and want to go with other kids, letting them know they’re OK and they will be, too,” stated Nytro.
These child advocates receive no pay for their work and go beyond physically protecting the child. BACA is a non-profit organization and through fundraisers gathers money to provide therapists, karate lessons and equestrian therapy to these children, just to name a few.
The Maricopa Chapter of BACA is the nearest to Navajo County, so a chapter formed in this region could benefit a lot of children. Nytro would encourage individuals interested in forming a chapter to look into what is required to become a BACA member and ask themselves some serious questions. “If anyone wants to form a chapter anywhere in Arizona, I would implore them to read our creed and then ask themselves, are you ready to do whatever it takes to be a part of this organization?” said Nytro.
To find out more about forming a BACA chapter email firstname.lastname@example.org. To make a donation or help fund their 100 Mile Awareness Ride held each fall, checks or money orders can be mailed to BACA Maricopa, P.O. Box 2864, Mesa, Ariz. 85214-2664.
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By Linda Kor