For many of the thousands of children victimized by abuse every year in Texas, there is no one they can turn to for help. This is the terrible problem that the non-profit Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) organization is trying to erase. It is hard to imagine the anxiety children feel, when their abusers are often family members or other individuals they are forced to see and interact with in their daily lives – the very adults they should be able to turn to for guidance – but instead they have learned to fear. Almost 20 years ago the national BACA organization was founded to provide the type of emotional and physical support that abused children need when other groups have failed them.
BACA members use a biker's tough image to make child abuse victims feel more secure, and they live by their motto: 'No child deserves to live in fear.' Children often think of bikers as powerful and forceful – so it is a natural transition for them to think of bikers as protective, if the bikers are on their side.
BACA members go by their "ride names" for security reasons, and they will do everything from attending a child's court hearings to staying with a victim if he or she is afraid.
"We want to allow these children to not be afraid of the world, to know that they have friends who will back them up. The message we want to convey is, 'If you try to hurt that child, you're going to have go through us.' That can be powerful help for a scared child," said Popeye, the founder and head of Texas' Seven Coves Chapter, which is based in Conroe.
The members often accompany children to court and will stand outside their home all night if needed to ensure the child's safety.
"This is a huge priority for us. Our members will make the time to take care of these children," he said.
The Seven Coves Chapter has about 15 members. It was founded in 2011 and serves the Montgomery, San Jacinto and Walker County areas. There are several other chapters in Texas, including a large Harris County Chapter. The Seven Coves Chapter has one mandatory fundraiser, the "100-Mile-Ride," which raises money through entry fees for the cause. It also holds an event in the fall at Pappas On The Lake (on Lake Conroe). Both events are open to the public.
"We recently provided an escort and security for a child who was a crime victim in Alabama, and had to leave her Texas home to attend court in that state. We were able to provide help through the support of BACA groups in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to support this child. We have often been told by the families and the kids themselves how much we made a difference, and this is why we do it," explained Popeye.
The BACA organization was founded in 1995 by a Native American psychologist (ride name, Chief) who worked with a young boy who had been subjected to extreme abuse and was afraid to leave his house or interact with others. The only thing that seemed to interest the child was Chief's motorcycle. So Chief and 20 other bikers rode to the boy's home and were able to draw him out of his house for the first time in weeks. Chief decided this type of organization was a great benefit to abused children. Since then, chapters have been formed all over the U.S.
BACA works in cooperation with local and state authorities to offer children an advocate they can count on, to intervene when necessary to provide a deterrent against further abuse, to accompany them to often-terrifying court proceedings, and to help the children and their families combat the situations that lead to abuse. The initial contact often begins with a ride of several BACA members to the child's location, where the BACA liaison talks with the child and gives him or her a riding vest or other gifts, along with phone numbers he or she can call if they need help. All BACA members must complete both a national and state criminal background check and at no time are any members allowed alone with a child. Violence is prohibited by members.
"Members commit to being available to these children during all hours, to stand behind them," said Popeye. "One of the biggest commitments is to go to court with these kids. Court can be especially intimidating for them because often their abuser is right in front of them."
He himself became interested in the organization by attending a meeting - then he discovered the importance of the club when he actually participated in an initial child contact.
"I got to see the impact - that's when I was hooked. That was five years ago and I feel stronger about it every day."
The Seven Coves BACA group meets on the second Saturday of each month at 10:30 a.m. at McKenzie's BBQ on North Frazier Street in Conroe. All meetings are open to the public.