During a man’s recent sentencing by a Davison County court to 20 years in prison for sexual contact with a child, the back row of the courtroom was lined with bikers in leather jackets with large, matching patches on the back.
Those were just a few of the members of Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA), an international nonprofit that exists with the sole intention of welcoming abused children into their family to eliminate their fear, no matter how much time or how many people it takes.
“We have one very narrow mission, which is to empower abused children not to be afraid of the world in which they live,” said “Dice,” a member responsible for public relations for the Great Plains Chapter, which meets monthly in Sioux Falls.
BACA has chapters in 48 states, as well as in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and 13 European countries, but Dice said there aren’t really geographic divisions between chapters, and that members will go wherever they’re needed, assisting other chapters when necessary.
“We’re one organization. We’re all brothers and sisters, we’re all family, everywhere,” Dice said. “So there’s really no boundaries with our location. We don’t specifically stick to one place. We take care of our heroes when they need it and where they need it, no matter how many people it takes.”
Currently, in addition to the Great Plains Chapter, there is one other permanent chapter (the Pierre-based Oahe Chapter) in South Dakota, in addition to a temporary chapter in Aberdeen, currently identified as the Hub Area, which Dice said will become a full chapter at some point.
The nonprofit views itself as a family — one that is very loyal, but also extremely private about much of its information. Dice said the group is very careful about what it discloses to the public and the media.
For instance, members and supporters only give their “road names” — like “Dice” — while on BACA business, and each BACA child is given a road name of their own. Although members may overhear parents or others addressing the children by their given names, Dice said he personally does not know the legal name of a single BACA child.
“There are some things about the inner workings of BACA that we just don’t discuss at all, with anybody, including our significant others,” Dice said Wednesday in an interview at The Daily Republic’s office.
Dice also declined to specify how many members are in the Great Plains chapter.
“We’ve got enough. That’s our answer. We’ve got enough people to do what we need to do. We don’t ever talk about numbers, just for the safety of ourselves and the children,” he said. “There are some very bad people out there who have some very bad intentions, so we’ve got enough people, and if we need more, it’s a phone call away.”
Joining the groupWith its familial structure, BACA doesn’t let just anyone become a member. The group’s training is extensive and takes time.
First, prospective members must undergo a thorough background check. While Dice said BACA doesn’t care about certain things someone may have on their record, the background check has to clear them of things like a history of violence, domestic issues or owing child support.
“We figure if they can’t take care of their own children, they can’t take care of our children,” Dice said.
If their background is cleared, those hoping to become BACA members must then ride along with the group for a minimum of a year, allowing the members to figure out if that person’s dedicated to the group’s efforts and if they fit in well. If they make the grade and are approved by a unanimous vote, they’re then given one of the patches that BACA members wear on the backs of their jackets. And that’s when the real work begins.
In addition to the extensive training they do on a regular basis, BACA members have to be ready to help abused children 24/7.
When a child meets the criteria for BACA, they receive the contact information for two “primaries,” or members whom they can contact anywhere, at any time.
“It’s a pretty big commitment. A lot of us have worked it out with our bosses and our families, specifically. We have talks with our families about it and say, ‘Look, there’s going to be times where we may miss a holiday, or I may have to get up at 3 o’clock in the morning and jump on my motorcycle and ride, and I may not come back for a couple days,’” Dice said. “It’s a very large commitment.”
Dice himself decided to join BACA after hearing about it from someone who thought he might be interested.
“I was abused as a child, and I didn’t have any voice; I didn’t have anyone to stand up for me,” he said. “I overcame that, and I know what it feels like to be in that position, and that’s what gives me the passion to put in all the hours and all of the things that we need to do to make this mission work.”
Dice said the varying number of children at any given time, the fact that BACA members can’t safely ride as much in the winter and the unpredictable nature of being on call constantly means that there is no standard number of hours he puts toward BACA on a given week.
Supporting the groupThose who aren’t able to be quite that accessible can become supporters, rather than members. Supporters have to go through the same stringent approval process as members, but they have fewer responsibilities, the most significant of which Dice said is not being able to be a primary for a child.
Dice said that those interested in becoming involved with BACA are encouraged to attend one of the Great Plains Chapter’s public meetings, which are held at 5 p.m. on the second Sunday of every month at Shenanigans Bar and Grill in Sioux Falls.
BACA works with agencies at the local level to identify children who might benefit from BACA support. While circumstances are evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine if BACA is a good fit, there are only two criteria that every child must meet: they must be abused in some way, and that abuse must have been reported.
The nonprofit has a liaison who meets with the person who referred a particular child for BACA. From there, the liaison presents that case to BACA’s board, although details are often omitted.
“We don’t always know what the abuse was and what happened. We don’t care,” Dice said. “Most of the time, all we know is this child was abused, and we’re here for them, and now they’re part of our family. And we’ll let them know that they’re part of our family throughout the world.”
BACA members and supporters assist abused children in two ways, known as Level One and Level Two.
A Level One takes place when members first meet the child and let them know they are there for them unconditionally. Children receive a “cut,” or a vest version of the jackets BACA members wear, as well as a bear which is “filled with hugs” by being passed from one member to another. They also have the option to go on a ride with BACA members.
A Level Two occurs when a child feels fear and contact a member for support. Level Twos are where members’ ability to drop everything else until the child feels safe again is key. These can happen anywhere and include members accompanying a child to court appearances.
“We allow that child to have their voice, and to say what they need to say in a courtroom, that can be very scary,” Dice said. “A lot of times, the kids are separated from their families, due to the legal process, and there are many instances where the child may have been intimidated or threatened if they ever say anything. So we give them that empowerment to be able to say what they need to say.”
With the requirement of 24/7 availability, there are numerous ways in which BACA members get abused kids what they need, from fundraisers to simple texts that ask how their day is going. But all of it is done with the singular goal of eliminating fear.
“I think a lot of the members have either been through abuse or had somebody close to them or someone in their family or someone they know that had been abused, and so we understand more of what those children are going through and the need for someone to just take that fear away,” Dice said. “Because there is no other organization out there that can do that.”