Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA)
BACA is a group of motorcyclists from across the world, whose goal is to create a safer environment for children who have been victims of abuse, physical or mental. They help kids face their nightmares by standing by their side. They follow through with this commitment until the kids are no longer living in fear and they regain their self-confidence, even if it takes years.
Founded in 1995, but have only recently become well known thanks to the internet and social sites. Their main base is in Arizona, but they act all over the US helping kids move past their fears. The members are men and women who look as intimidating as it gets. Once they have a case to handle, they follow it until they are sure that the child is confident and not afraid of the world anymore.
The biker image is what makes this work,” says Rembrandt, 54, who is tall and wiry strong. “Golfers against child abuse does not have the same feel. The pink alligator shirt and golf shoes standing in the driveway doesn’t do the same thing, no offense to golfers.”
The leader of this motorcycle club is ‘Pipes’, a 55-year-old man who has a salt-and-pepper Fu Manchu and wears his hair down past his shoulders. The bikers all go by their road names for security; Rock, Nytro, Sassy, Rembrandt, Uno, Smiles, Bigg Dogg, Fat Daddy and Trucker, who’s louder than all the others. Then there’s ‘Tree’ who’s well named at 6’10” tall.
BACA works in conjunction with local and state officials who are already working to protect children, and each member is trained for the job. They don’t take payment, they don’t even ask for gas money, they just volunteer and until now they’ve changed the lives of numerous boys and girls along the way, while using their menacing image for the greater good.
They handle their cases in groups as big as 25 – 30 members, they council the children, stand with them through trials and meetings, they guard their houses and call each other brothers and sisters. Even when the case is over, the organization appoints one or two motorcyclists that constantly follow up on the child and offer their support and friendship.
The 11-year-old girl hears the rumble of their motorcycles, rich and deep, long before she sees them. She chews her bottom lip, nervous. They are coming for her.
The bikers roar into sight, a pack of them, long-haired and tattooed, with heavy boots and leather vests, and some riding double. They circle the usually quiet Gilbert cul-de-sac, and the noise pulls neighbors from behind slatted wood blinds and glossy front doors.
A formidable man bends low in front of the little girl and puts out his hand, tanned and weathered from the sun and wind: “Hi, I’m Pipes.”
“Nice to meet you,” she says softly, her small hand disappearing in his.
The girl chewing on her lip was abused by a relative, according to police reports – someone she should have been able to trust. He’s not in the state any longer, but the criminal case is progressing slowly, so he’s not in jail, either.
He still terrorizes her at night, even though he’s nowhere near. She wakes, heart pounding. The nightmare feels real again. She never feels safe, even with her parents just downstairs.
The little girl in the driveway needs to be able to believe. Her parents, the police and her therapist all tell her that she is safe. But it’s hard when someone you once trusted ended up hurting you.
After all the bikers introduce themselves, Pipes holds up a small vest covered in patches, just like the bikers’ but made of denim instead of leather. On one patch is the girl’s new road name: Rhythm, for a girl who dances and plays music. “Rhythm,” she repeats, and smiles.
“This means now you’re part of our big, ugly family,” Pipes says as he helps her into the vest, first one arm and then the other.
“Speak for yourself – we’re not all ugly!” a voice calls out, and the bikers laugh.
Pipes bends low again and tells Rhythm, “If you’re afraid, you call us. Whenever you need us, we will be here.”
Rhythm nods, tears in her wide blue eyes.
He gives her a T-shirt just like the one the bikers wear. He unfolds a do-rag for her but then hesitates: “I don’t know if you want to wear it.”
“It’s cool,” Rhythm says, and turns around so Nytro can tie it on her head.
“Is that too tight?” Nytro asks. Rhythm shakes her head no and turns back around, grinning.
The girl turns suddenly, bolting from the group. She is gone, through the open garage door and into the house. Five minutes pass. And then a different Rhythm emerges, one who shed her lavender girly T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops in favor of her black BACA T-shirt, blue jeans and new biker vest.
The bikers cheer and clap.
“It doesn’t mean you go out and get a tattoo,” Trucker teases. Rhythm assures him that she’s afraid of needles, and he gives her a few temporary tattoos with BACA’s logo on them.
There is one more rite to Rhythm’s welcome into the BACA family: She gets to go on a ride with the group, and she gets to choose her bike. Whoever owns the motorcycle she picks has the honor of taking her.
Rhythm walks along the row of bikes, looking them over, one by one. She decides on a black 2005 Yamaha Road Star Midnight Edition.
Tree lets out a whoop. She picked his.
Tree is a 43-year-old father of four, a truck driver training to be a certified motorcycle mechanic. He’s so big that Rhythm can’t get her arms around him, so she reaches up and grabs hold of the arm holes of his vest instead.
Few of the bikers wear helmets, as they are not mandated by law in Arizona, but they make the kids wear one. Rhythm’s is fastened in place and then she and Tree are surrounded by another half-dozen bikes. The group roars out of the cul-de-sac together.
Rhythm shouts up at Tree: “This is so cool!”
Fifteen minutes later, they are back, and Rhythm slides off the bike, taking Rembrandt’s offered hand.
“It was fun!” she announces as Smiles pulls off her helmet, and then to Tree she says, “Sorry, I probably was squeezing you really hard.”
“Thanks for going on a ride with me,” Tree tells her. “That was really fun.”
“Can I ask you a question?” Rhythm asks him. Sure, Tree says.
“How tall are you?”
He’s 6 feet 10.
“Wow,” she says. “You’d be a great basketball player.”
In just the short time the bikers have been here, not even an hour yet, there has been a change in Rhythm.
She slowly moved into the half-moon of bikers, and they closed in around her. She’s answering questions about school, the chickens out back and what kind of music she likes.
And she’s laughing.
To her parents, it is like music. Her mother wipes her eyes with her fingertips; her dad takes pictures.
“Look how bright her face is,” says Rhythm’s therapist, who is there on the driveway, too. “It hasn’t been that bright in a long time.”
Two of the bikers will be Rhythm’s “primaries,” her main contacts in the group. Sassy, 34, a mother of six and a former paralegal, and Tool, 46, a co-owner of a payment-processing company, will be hers. They will be available to her 24 hours a day by cellphone.
“Now you realize you’re stuck with all of us,” Pipes says, and Rhythm nods, smiling.
Pipes tests to see whether Rhythm understood what he meant earlier when he told her that these people are her family now. He puts his hand on Uno’s shoulder and asks her, “Who’s this?”
“Uno, my big brother,” she answers.
“Who’s this?” “Tool, my big brother.”
Pipes points: “Who’s that?” “Harmony, my big sister.”
“Who are all of these people?” Pipes asks, holding his arms wide.
“My family,” Rhythm says firmly.
And then she hugs Pipes, burying her face in his vest: “Thank you for coming to see me.”
Sassy turns away so no one sees her tears. And one after another, the bikers put their sunglasses back on.
Click on the sources below for more in-depth information on BACA and other cases.
(huge h/t to our Saltwater)