(Bikers helping a victim feel safe – photo by Karina Bland)
If you were a victim to abuse at six years of age, likely at the hands of a once-trustworthy adult figure, who would you turn to for reassurance? Try a beefy, black-leather-wearing guy on a roaring motorcycle. With their emblematic do-rags and tattoos, they are meant to look scarier and tougher than any threat, be it strangers or a nightmare. They are Bikers Against Child Abuse International.
Living by the motto “No child deserves to live in fear”, these bikers will come at anytime to stand guard as long as necessary until the child feels safe again. They’ve chaperoned children to school and literally stood the night to protect against the invisible night haunts. They sit in the front of the court come trials and tell the child to look to them and not to be afraid to testify. Trauma makes the children feel helpless, and often the offenders are not jailed and close by. The team of rough riders straight out of a movie are a physical barrier to ensure the children can leave the house without feeling frightened and return to just being children. After all, bikers are a lot riskier to tick off than a cop.
Despite the outer looks, the bikers are all inspected volunteers. They take time off their jobs to be available. Before joining, they go through the same checks and training child-welfare workers need to work with the victims as well as stomach the crimes done to them. The shades worn are as much to hide their own tears as to be intimidating. Often with painful past experiences of their own, they have soft spots for children. Each child receives a welcome of an honorary biker outfit, road name, and a free ride, inducting them into a new family they can depend on 24/7. Often they give more; many are known to pay out of their pocket and take them to lessons, camps, and whatever it takes to let the children reclaim their self-esteem and childhoods. Despite the limited funding, and often other factors such as weather and distance, they are always there when they say they will be. Two members are assigned to each child as “primaries” for specialized support that could mean anything from an immediate response to simply texting every day. The changes are seen clearly as their wards feel free to smile again and face confrontation in court. To the suffering family, they are symbols of hope and proof that they are not alone.
“To see the life that was beaten out of them return is amazing. To see that transformation, to give them a chance at a normal childhood again … It’s why we do this.”