When I was still living and working in the UK, one of my colleagues (who would later go on to become my girlfriend) confided in me about her abuse at the hands of her boyfriend.
Both mental and physical, the abuse was so bad that my colleague had taken to cutting herself (on her upper thighs, so the cuts were hidden from public view).
Through gentle coaxing and ongoing support and encouragement, myself and a trusted friend of hers helped her break free from her abuser, and start to live her life free of fear.
It may also have helped that both her friend and I had a “quiet word” with her ex-boyfriend, and left him in absolutely no doubt that it was in his best interests to stay as far away as possible from her.
It’s been a while since I left the UK, and I lost touch with my ex-colleague/ex-girlfriend a long time ago.
Today, I thought of her, and others like her, when I saw a video about BACA, or Bikers Against Child Abuse.
An Epidemic of Trust and Abuse
My ex was lucky, for want of a better word. While there’s no taking away the effects of her abuse, she had trusted friends – adult friends – she could turn to.
But what happens if these trusted adults are the abusers? Who do you turn to then?
This is the plight millions of kids face due to child abuse, often by family members or those in the close family circle.
According to a 2012 report published by the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (NAASCA), there are:
- 42 million survivors of sexual abuse in America,
- 20% of child abuse victims are under 8 years of age,
- 90% are abused by someone they know, love or trust.
On top of these damning figures, if numbers continue like they are today, then the report expects that between now and 2030, there will be 40 new male victims per hour, and 58 new female victims per hour, every single day.
That’s in America. Across the globe, the numbers and statistics are equally as heartbreaking and disturbing.
- 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys experience some form of sexual abuse,
- 95% of sexual abuse victims know their abuser,
- While children represent just 21% of the population, they accounted for 61% of sexual offences reported to police (source).
- Over 50,000 children are identified as needing protection from abuse,
- For every child needing protection, 8 are actually suffering abuse (source).
- 40 million children are abused every year,
- 20% of women and 5-10% of men report being sexually abused as children,
- 25-50% of all children report being physically abused (source).
Not pretty reading, huh? And for the kids trapped in this hell, it can be really hard to get out, and fight past the feeling that the world is against you.
Thankfully, the men and women of Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) feel that desperation, and are letting these kids know there are protectors out there.
Taking Away Fear Through Power
Founded in Utah in 1995 by John Paul “Chief” Lilly, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Registered Play Therapist, BACA was created to fill the gaps that the system was unable to plug.
Mainly, providing for the safety of children as well as providing funding for their therapy as they sought to recover from their abuse.
Additionally, Lilly saw how the system failed to protect the children even when the law was involved. Law enforcement couldn’t watch over the kids 24/7, and as a result the abusers would continue to have access to the kids and abuse them further.
For Lilly, this came to a head when a local 8 year old boy was too afraid to leave his home because of his abusers. So Lilly, who was a keen biker and who himself had seen how kind bikers had been to him when he was younger, brought the kid into his group of biker friends.
The kid became more confident, and started playing outside his house again, and riding his own bicycle down the street.
Seeing how this kid was empowered by the knowledge that all these bikers were in his corner, Lilly created the first BACA biker ride in 1995, a total of 27 bikes, and they visited wounded and abused kids.
From that small beginning, BACA has grown into a global organization with one simple mantra – fight back against child abuse, and take the power away from the abuser and give it back to the abused.
Once a child has been identified as in need of help through work by a recognized, authorized agency, BACA steps in.
- An initial visit is held in a place the child feels safe,
- The child is given an official BACA vest and patch to wear,
- The child is given contact details for the two closest BACA members,
- BACA provides round-the-clock support if the child contacts them.
This includes going to their home to offer support and protection, as well as accompanying them to court hearings, school, and showing their presence around the child’s neighbourhood.
The goal is simple: to show the child, and their family, that they are more powerful than they think, and they don’t need to be afraid.
For the kids that BACA has helped so far, and the ones they’ll continue to help in the future, that’s a powerful message and lesson.
As my friend Gina Fiedel said over on Facebook,
Superheroes. There’s nothing much wrong with having someone that will take a stand and stand up. Nothing much wrong with giving a kid protection and defense, validation. It’s pretty great, actually.
Pretty great, indeed. Kudos, BACA.
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