NWI Bikers Against Child Abuse chapter seek to empower kids, have their back
Event Coordinator Jewel, center, announces her agenda during the Northwest Indiana chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse meeting in Rensselaer.
Event Coordinator Jewel, center, announces her agenda during the Northwest Indiana chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse meeting in Rensselaer. (Suzanne Tennant/Post-Tribune)
It doesnt matter what the weather is like or what time it is. If one of the children that Guy has promised to be there for calls him at 3 a.m., he gets on his motorcycle and goes.
Regardless of when that kid is afraid, we show up, Guy said.
Its what Guy and the other members promised to do when they joined the Northwest Indiana chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse. It says so in their creed.
I wont give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up and showed up for all wounded children, the creed states.
Bikers Against Child Abuse, or BACA, is a nonprofit that exists to provide aid, comfort, safety and support for children that have been sexually, physically and emotionally abused, according to the organizations website.
The group started in 1995 in Utah before it spread, including to Indiana. Guy, president of the Northwest Indiana chapter, learned about BACA in Missouri before he moved and got involved in the Calumet Region, he said. While there are a number of chapters across Missouri, the Northwest Indiana chapter is the only one in the state, according to the organizations website.
The members may attend court proceedings for the children, escort them to school or errands, or help in any other way a child may need, according to the organization.
The Northwest Indiana chapter gathered in November for a meeting at the Loyal Order of the Moose in Rensselaer, as they do each month. People interested in starting their own chapter showed up to watch.
Chapter secretary Mr. Clean speaks during the Northwest Indiana chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse meeting in Rensselaer.
Chapter secretary Mr. Clean speaks during the Northwest Indiana chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse meeting in Rensselaer. (Suzanne Tennant/Post-Tribune)
BACA vice president Shield, Smurfette, and Mr. Clean, chapter secretary,attend the Northwest Indiana chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse meeting in Rensselaer.
BACA vice president Shield, Smurfette, and Mr. Clean, chapter secretary,attend the Northwest Indiana chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse meeting in Rensselaer. (Suzanne Tennant/Post-Tribune)
Sassy was working on a sewing machine as the others arrived wearing their black leather vests filled with patches. On the back of their vests, BACA is written on a fist in front of a red backdrop. The words no child deserves to live in fear are stitched on the bottom.
Some members wore bandannas. They shared snacks and soda as they set up for a meeting. Shield turned his seat around and sat backward in his chair. Phoenix Rose worked on her laptop. One of the members followed his daughter as she ran around the room.
Each member has their own road name: Guy, Sassy, Shield, Mr. Clean, Jewel, Smurfette, Beans, Phoenix Rose. They dont give out their real names publicly for safety and privacy reasons, according to Guy.
The members of the Northwest Indiana chapter take their role seriously. To join BACA, they each go through a federal fingerprint background check, Guy said. No member is allowed to be alone with a child. And they go through regular training sessions and workshops to become educated on the topic and learn how to best help the children they serve.
It is a time commitment to be a member, Guy said.
Child abuse can have lasting impacts and is like a ripple effect, Sandy Runkle-DeLorme, director of programs for Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, said.
We dont live in a bubble. Everything we do impacts the life of somebody else, Runkle-DeLorme said.
Whether or not it impacts your family directly, its important for people to be aware and educated about child abuse, she said. Anyone can help out in simple ways, she said, such as reaching out to a family member or friend who may need a break to watch their child for them, even if just for a few minutes.
It doesnt have to be anything grandiose. It can be small, everyday things that really make a difference in the life of a child, Runkle-DeLorme said.
In 2018, the Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline which can be reached at 1- handled 242,994 reports. That number increased from 177,542 reports in 2012 to 244,493 in 2017, according to the Indiana Department of Child Services.
Fifty-nine children died of abuse or neglect in fiscal year 2016, according to the most recent annual report from Indiana DCS. Of those deaths, 24 were from abuse and 35 were due to neglect, the report states. One child died in Lake County from abuse, according to the report.
The majority of the deaths were children who were 3 years old or younger, the report shows. Head trauma was cited as the most common in abuse-related fatalities, according to the report. Biological parents were most often deemed responsible for the fatalities, the report shows.
Each BACA member has their own reason for why they joined, Guy said, but its all about empowering kids to not be afraid of the world in which they live. By wearing a BACA patch, a member makes a commitment to each child, according to Guy.
Cases are generally referred to BACA through various agencies and organizations throughout the state, and a liaison reaches out to find out more information, Guy said. That information is presented to the board and they decide whether to accept a case, he said.
Any child thats in fear, thats been abused, thats who we want to talk to, Guy said.
The chapter then gets together and introduce themselves to the child, according to Guy.
We all come in as a chapter and ride there on our bikes, Guy said. Families are usually waiting out front with the kids, and theyre all excited to see us.
Members of the Northwest Indiana chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse hold their monthly meeting in Rensselaer.
Members of the Northwest Indiana chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse hold their monthly meeting in Rensselaer. (Suzanne Tennant/Post-Tribune)
The child is assigned two primary members, usually a male and a female, who give the child their own cut, or vest, and really start developing that relationship with that kid, according to Guy.
We bring them into our family, let them know that we have their back. Were always going to be there, Guy said.
The primaries have a schedule they follow, checking in with the child and their family and reporting back to the chapter on whats going on.
The chapter will stay with the child through their court case, Guy said. After that, it kind of depends how long they will stay working with a child, he said.
As long as they need us, well be there, he said.
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