Really tough guys aren't ashamed to cry. Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) is an organization that puts its members' hearts and sometimes tears on the line for child victims of abuse every day.
Last Sunday at their regular business meeting was no exception. At the meeting, one of the bikers decided to introduce the group to a family that he and five other Bikers Against Child Abuse have been helping.
The family members - a mother and four children - are victims of abuse. The mother had left the abuser and filed to keep him away from her family, but as often is the case, he wouldn't stay away. Court orders, Department of Children's Service workers and police officers were doing all they could.
When the children had to appear in court, an advocate working with the family asked the mother's permission to contact BACA. Suddenly things changed for the better for the frightened family.
Here is what the mother told Children's Services about BACA.
"We walked up and even though we had never met them we knew who they were, but more importantly they knew who we were," she wrote. She told of Grizz - a large, bearded and tattooed man wearing BACA motorcycle patches on his black leather vest - shaking hands with her children, including a 3-year-old.
Later in the elevator the day they met, the children visited with Grizz, 2/2 and OCD (all BACA members are identified solely by nicknames). Later, three other BACA members were assigned to the family: Wanna-b, Flip-Flop and Chico.
'Children's fears faded away'
"Right before my eyes, the fears they had just that morning were fading away and their steps were lighter," the mother continued. "Of all the counseling, therapy and security systems put in our home, not one gave my children such instant relief and security as BACA did the moment they met."
BACA members continued to provide that security, too. Members stayed in the courtroom in sight of the children while they testified, and sat with them when they were waiting to come into the courtroom,
"One of the members even let my child braid his hair," the mother added. After the court appearance, the BACA team continued to call and check in with the family. They called the day before other court appearances, and made sure the kids knew what to expect.
"Grizz even sat in the courtroom when I had to testify," the mother added on Sunday.
While Grizz read her letter at the BACA meeting, other Bikers Against Child Abuse sat listening with tears running down their cheeks. When he finished, one of the children turned to a 6-foot 6-inch biker and said, smiling through her tears, "I don't know who you are, but I saw you crying, too, and that made it all right."
'Standing guard against threats'
The BACA Volunteer State Chapter serves several Middle Tennessee counties including Wilson, explained its current president Harley Man, who lives in Wilson County himself.
Families are referred by Children's Services, prosecuting attorneys, police officers and therapists - and some families ask for help themselves, directly to the bikers.
Grizz, a former president of the chapter who is its senior patch member, pointed out that BACA can do some things that other organizations and individuals can't. "We can stand around a child's home, or ride bikes up down their street all night if there's been a threat," he said. And while the local chapter has about 30 to 40 members, the organization is international.
Grizz described a recent case in Murfreesboro in which serious threats had been made against the abuse victims.
"We thought the case was going to go south and we put out an 'all call,'" he said. "It wasn't long until we had over 200 bikers on the courthouse lawn. The local police told us they were going to stick around to be sure we didn't have to hurt the abuser if he tried to do anything. They thanked us for our help. Since then, we have had several referrals from police officers."
But the service BACA provides isn't just based on its large numbers or ability to deter abusers from persisting in their attacks on children.
'Extensive training required'
Each potential member is given a criminal background check - and about a year of training in how to recognize trouble situations and how to relate to the child victims.
"It takes training to be a child liaison," Grizz said. Harley Man pointed out that even his wife can't work with the children since she hasn't yet had the training that BACA International requires.
The members are definitely committed to protecting children from fear and abuse, but why are bikers chosen for this task?
"If you were being threatened and 20 men in suits driving cars arrived and said they would protect you, or 20 men wearing leathers and riding motorcycles roared up and said they would protect you, which would make you feel the safest?" Grizz answered.
'We will be that obstacle'
The last sentence of the BACA mission statement says best what the group stands for:
"We do not condone the use of violence or physical force in any manner - however, if circumstances arise such that we are the only obstacle preventing a child from further abuse, we stand ready to be that obstacle."
It's a service the local chapter of BACA has been providing for almost a decade now - it will celebrate its 10th anniversary in August. The organization also has Christmas parties and offers other assistance such as school supplies and payments for therapy needed by the children.
BACA is solely supported by donations.
One of the members works for Keller-Williams Realty and has arranged for BACA to benefit from that company's Red Day, which is a fundraiser held in honor of the company founder's birthday. This year, part of the money raised will be donated to BACA to help the children.
BACA can be contacted by mail at P.O.B. 1117, Lebanon, TN, 37088; by calling 615- 715-5039; or by email at email@example.com.
Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.