Q&A with Caribe

Bikers Against Child Abuse’s statewide public relations talks about the nonprofit mission and why all its members have funny nicknames

By Brenda Alesii

An organization active in 47 states and 18 countries, including eight in New York state, touts the following motto: “No child deserves to live in fear.”

The organization, Bikers Against Child Abuse, provides social and emotional support for abused children, including escorts through the criminal justice systems, interviews with the police and district attorney’s office — and, if necessary, support at trials. BACA fills gaps provided by existing agencies, which refer many of their cases to the organization from child protective services and advocacy centers.

Founded some 27 years ago in Utah by a licensed therapist, the chapters in New York state stretch from Long Island to Buffalo. The local chapter includes Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Wyoming counties.

In Good Health recently spoke with BACA’s statewide public relations officer, who is called “Caribe.” For security reasons, members of BACA do not use their given names, but do use their road names, a traditional practice in the biker community.

Q: Where do the members of BACA come from and how do the children you help connect with your organization?

A: Our members, both men and women, come from all walks of life and range in age from their 20s to 70s. We are not compensated, but rather volunteer our time 12 months a year and handle our own expenses. To be in BACA, an individual must have a bike or have access to one.

Our goal is to empower children to not feel afraid of the world in which they live. Kids range in age from 4 to 18. Criteria for the BACA child include a record of abuse and an expression of fear or pain. The perpetrator cannot live in the same house as the child. When a chapter officer receives a call from the BACA hotline, the matter is then taken to our executive board and we follow up with the family.

We don’t purport to be therapists, but we do offer social support, designed to give these children empowerment. We also help empower children through the whole legal process if they take that path. We will escort the child to court, stay during the entire criminal proceeding and assure the victim that he or she is not alone. Even in the courtroom, we ask the child to look only at us and not make eye contact with the alleged perpetrator. We stay as long as necessary, helping the victim find the internal physical and emotional strength they need. It’s not uncommon for a group of bikers to escort the child en masse to the D.A.’s office or to court. It’s important to note that BACA members never get involved with the alleged abuser.

When a level one intervention takes place, a group of us will meet the child and his or her parent or guardian, give the child a biker vest, a signed and hugged teddy bear and take the youngster for a ride. We will then spend time with the child doing anything they like, be it playing cornhole or kickball.

If there are threats against the child, or if he or she is afraid, we will have a presence around their home all day and night, doing whatever is necessary to be a calming presence for the child to enjoy a good night sleep.

Q: You’re dealing with sensitive situations, to say the least. How are BACA members trained and vetted?

A: We receive one solid year of training in how to deal with abused children and how to conduct ourselves in a courtroom. Each qualified person is fingerprinted and cleared through an FBI background check. And, after one year, the individual is eligible to become a full patched member. The process is a long slog.

Q: How is BACA funded?

A: We are a 501c3 organization. We accept donations from individuals and corporations, receive the occasional grant; our local chapter hosts a couple of fundraisers each year.

Q: How can BACA be reached?

A: Our monthly general information meetings are open to the public on the second Saturday of every month at 6:30 p.m. For more information on the meetings and membership requirements, call 716-222-2856; Hotline: 716-342-4107; website: www.BACAWorld.org.