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BIKER NEWS: Biker group looks out for abuse victims, expands to New Richmond

BN- The patch that Bikers Against Child Abuse members wear is designed to send a message. It depicts a fist with the acronym “BACA” acros...

BN- The patch that Bikers Against Child Abuse members wear is designed to send a message.

It depicts a fist with the acronym “BACA” across the knuckles. A skull and crossbones also adorns the logo.

“It looks intimidating and it’s designed to look that way,” said Scottie Ard, a New Richmond City Council alderwoman whose years working the motorcycle industry put her in close touch with BACA members. “They’re trying to send that message - you are not going to mess with these kids.”

While the group, which now has a New Richmond chapter, serves a protective role in child abuse cases, Ard said the organization’s intent should not be misunderstood.

“People should not be afraid of this patch,” she said. “These are the good guys.”
The New Richmond chapter took root after the 2014 National Night to Unite in Hudson, where members of a Minnesota chapter decided to form their own unit.

“The need in this area is great,” said a member named Digger.

BACA members go by their road names in media interviews for their own protection - and the protection of the children in whose court cases they sometimes participate.

The New Richmond BACA chapter, currently 16 members strong, meets on the first Tuesday of each month at Gibby’s Sports Bar, 546 Shore Drive. Prospective members can attend to learn more, though the meetings are open to the public, according to New Richmond BACA member Archer.

Ard likened the group’s role in child abuse cases to that of a hospital volunteer. BACA members can offer comfort and care for kids who are hurting.

But, she said, that’s not the only role the group plays. Ard explained that when children are hauled into court as part of child abuse proceedings, they often feel vulnerable and afraid in the presence of their tormentors.

That’s when BACA members take on the role of protector, she said.

“They have these big bikers behind them,” Ard said. “They’re going to protect - this group is here for you. It’s amazing to see that child develop.”

Court proceedings can be particularly stressful for abused youngsters, especially when they’re required to testify, Bull and three other local BACA members - “Raja,” “Tat” and “Lugnut” - explained last year to the Hudson Star-Observer.

For the children, knowing they always have their own personal team of tough, supportive biker buddies nearby can make all the difference in the world.

“So, if one of our kids calls, we’ll go over to their house and stay in the driveway all night if they’re really scared,” said Bull, who has four kids of his own with his wife Raja, secretary of the Minnesota BACA chapter.

“We’ll escort them to and from court. We’ll sit with them in court. Many times, the child has to sit out in the hallway with the perp, waiting to testify. Our being there makes them feel safer.

“We also provide counseling and other help, and just make sure we’re there for them at all times if they need us. Basically, we empower these kids not to be afraid of the world in which they live.”

As the patches on BACA members’ motorcycle jackets assert: “No child deserves to live in fear.”

Recent national statistics show that one in four girls is sexually abused by age 18. So is one in five boys.

BACA members guard their young charges’ identities like pit bulls, as well as their own. Members’ names are not allowed in newspaper stories about them - only their club road names. No occupations or hometowns, either. They won’t allow photos with their own kids.

“Perpetrators will do anything sometimes,” Bull notes. “They’re desperate.”

BACA has been part of several St. Croix County cases, including the prosecution of accused sex abuser Daniel Barber. Barber pleaded not guilty June 10, 2014, to eight counts of felony child sex assault and six counts of possessing child pornography.

Started by social worker

Founded by John Paul “Chief” Lilly, a licensed clinical social worker and registered play therapist in Utah, BACA has since established chapters in six countries and 37 states, including Wisconsin groups based in La Crosse and Manitowoc.

Referrals come from parents and guardians, guardians ad litem, law enforcement, prosecutors and in some cases, local victim/witness programs. In Texas, BACA has its own office in every local courthouse.

The group also maintains a therapy fund for victims - a BACA brochure notes that many abused kids don’t qualify for public-financed therapy. Reasons vary, but most often it’s because their cases do not meet the basic requirements of the rules of evidence, are summarily closed or because an obviously abused victim is too scared to provide enough evidence to pursue prosecution.

The brochure also notes that “children who feel safe and protected are more capable and likely to tell the truth regarding their abuse because threats made by an abuser are offset by the presence of dedicated, protective bikers that have now become family.”

The legal and social-services system “offers much” to help victims’ healing, the brochure continues. But even with protective orders, “it is physically impossible for law enforcement to provide protection 24 hours a day, indefinitely. … Perpetrators are fully aware of this and find ways to access and further harm their victims.”

That’s where BACA often steps in.

Background checks, training mandatory

After an initial visit to determine whether BACA’s right for a referred case, at least two members are assigned as the victim’s primary contacts, working with a chapter child-psychology and/or social-work professional. For the Minnesota chapter, that person’s road name is “Doc.”

All official BACA members have passed criminal background checks and completed at least a year of special training.

At initial visits, each child gets his or her own motorcycle vest, a BACA patch, a Teddy bear and a road nickname. Later, they go on rides with their new guardians, who also sometimes visit the kids at school and at parties for birthdays and holidays.

“One of our kids sleeps with the vest on because he feels like it protects him at night,” Bull said.

BACA lists the following documented benefits of the relationship: improved self-confidence, diminished regressive behavior, increased feelings of safety, empowerment to testify, better communication, reduced feelings of guilt, decreased negative behaviors, and a sense of belonging, acceptance and independence.

“One of our kids recently became a Big Brother and wanted a Teddy bear for his sister, too. She wasn’t abused, but he still wanted her to feel protected,” Bull says.

“It’s cool that a kid like that still thinks about his sister, not so much himself. I guess that just kind of proves that what we do works.”




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BIKER NEWS: Biker group looks out for abuse victims, expands to New Richmond
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