Bikers Against Child Abuse
Doctors, lawyers and computer programmers are only a few of the professionals that make up Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA). Over the years, biker organizations have been stereotyped and as a result, the general public sometimes takes the BACA organization as harmful. A lot of volunteered time is dedicated to overcoming this image. But the main purpose of BACA is to create a safer environment for children who have been victims of abuse.
BACA members receive calls from parents, guardians, police, and child-care agencies about potential cases of child abuse. When this happens, a BACA/child liaison makes contact with that child. If it has been determined that the case is valid, meaning the authorities have been contacted and the case is being processed within the system, local BACA chapter members will act on the first level of intervention-an organized ride to meet the child and establish support.
"If we get involved in a case, it usually means there is a bad situation," explained one of the members. "It's unfortunate that we live in a society that organizations like ours have to exist, but we do and I'm glad that we're here."
There are four levels of intervention, which range from meeting with families, school teachers and neighbors to making local residents aware of a potential abuse case by letters and "Neighborhood Awareness Rides." Local chapters ride to general locations and distribute literature while explaining ways too get involved.
Keeping in the tradition with biker organizations, BACA develops what they call "road names." Real names are not used so that members can maintain secrecy of identification from someone who may want to carry out a grudge against those who help convict a perpetrator. Monikers like "Old Goat," "Okygirl," "Groucho" and even "Batman" also allow for camaraderie among fellow members.
While not dressed in a cape and mask nor having a secret cave located in some remote mountain, "Batman" is a member of the Central Oklahoma BACA chapter.
"What we do is ask the child to adopt us," Batman said. "We develop an extended family with the child and let them know that we are there for them. We want the child to know that they are not alone and that nobody should mess with their family."
BACA's mission is to work in conjunction with local and state officials who are already in place to protect children. Local chapter representatives meet informally with law enforcement organizations in order to introduce BACA. Brochures and contact information are left with open invitations to answer any questions.
Local chapters also meet with law enforcement when a referral is taken so as to be able to answer any questions residents may have about a large number of bikers in their community.
BACA chapters also conduct community events to answer questions regarding BACA's purpose. This is an extremely good time to make people aware of child abuse and provide a way for those who are interested to get involved.
"Recently a large group from the Central Oklahoma chapter members attended a school for lunch to show support for a child who was being constantly harassed," said Batman. "This led to us attending a PTA meeting and making a lot of parents aware of who we are."
BACA is made up of individual chapters so as to be able to help as many children possible. There are 103 chapters in twenty-seven states, as well as three in Australia. Twelve chapters are in Oklahoma.
From time to time, BACA members will attend court with abused family members. The purpose is to be a physical presence in order to assist the child in being less troubled about appearing in court. Occasionally, accurate testimony regarding the abused child is needed.
Recently, Central Oklahoma BACA members attended a court case regarding an abused child in Cleveland County.
"Being in court is intimidating, even for adults," said Batman. "By us being there for small children who are scared by lawyers, judges and the perpetrator being present, we can provide a comfort, if doing nothing more than showing that we are there for our family."
To become a full-patched BACA member, a person must pass a background check by not having any convictions for violent or abusive crimes against children. They must attend monthly BACA meetings, rides, court hearings and ride with the BACA chapter for one year.
"It's important to remember that we are not a vigilante organization," said Batman. "We don't know who the abuser is and we are not out to do physical harm. We just have a heart for the children in need."