Perpetrators of child abuse who try to intimidate victims and their families from testifying against them are getting a stern warning from dozens of motorcycle riders — men and women — who comprise Bikers Against Child Abuse. The international organization and the Pikes Peak chapter protects and supports victims of abuse during investigations and trials through engagement and empowerment.
John Paul “Chief” Lilly, a licensed clinical social worker, founded the organization in 1995. In his 20 years working with abused children, Lilly found that the victim is often too frightened to provide evidence for the case to be pursued, according to his profile on the organization’s website. The organization has grown to 39 states and seven countries.
The Colorado chapter started in Pueblo and Fremont County in 2003, said Tilt, a founding member of the Colorado chapter and current vice president of the Pikes Peak regional chapter. He asked to be identified by his “road name” as a security measure to prevent perpetrators from being able to track him and follow him to victims’ homes.
The organization receives referrals from counselors or the victim’s family, Tilt said. A few members of the organization will visit with the family to make sure they are a good fit for the organization and its services. If the situation is a fit, the group performs what
Tilt called a “level one intervention.”
“That’s where we all show up en masse to ride to the child’s house and make them a part of our biker family,” Tilt said. “Level 1 generates the bond, to make it clear that all these bikers have their back and they don’t have to be afraid any more.” The child receives a BACA vest and patch to induct them into the organization, and is assigned two primary contact members who will be on call for that child 24 hours a day.
Victims and their families learn about BACA from friends or referrals from social workers. A Peyton family who spoke anonymously to The New Falcon Herald said they learned about BACA from friends. “We had a friend who knew about the organization and said they’d be able to help my daughter from being afraid at court appearances, so I gave them a call,” the mother said. “Them
being there was amazing, and the support they gave us was great,” said the family’s daughter. “I think anyone looking for help should definitely (call them). It’s a great program that helps empower you and makes you feel that you can do anything.” Usually, the moral support and emotional
empowerment is all that is needed in a child’s case. In some cases, BACA members are called upon to provide some security for the family and victim from the perpetrator. “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,” according to the BACA mission statement.
“Perpetrators are people who are not well,” Tilt said. “The way their mind works is not the same as everyone else. They’re aware that if the child testifies, they’re going to jail. And, of course, in jail they (inmates) don’t like pedophiles. They’ll (perpetrators) threaten the families and do things that give us need to go and protect the family at their home.”
“The children have been exposed to too much violence already, and we don’t want to continue that in their life. But if we’re standing there, and the perpetrator wants to harm the family and child, they’re going to have to get through us. And we’re ready.” However, the members’ presence is usually enough to deter problems, he said.
The organization has its greatest influence at the victims’ court appearances. “Court is intimidating and scary even for grownups, and for a child more so,” Tilt said. “On top of that situation, their perpetrator is sitting right there. If we’re in the courtroom, they can look at us and concentrate on us. They remember that we’re there for them. Regardless of the outcome, they told their story and they can move ahead with their life.”
The Peyton family said the organization was vital in providing support during their daughter’s court appearance. “When they went to court with her, they always had at least two people with her,” the mother said. “They even walked with her to the restroom and sat between her and the defendant. We didn’t need them to come to the house but they volunteered to if we needed it.”
A few Internet viral stories about BACA and its mission has helped the organization reach more children and families, Tilt said. “Letting people know who we are and that we’re here has helped enormously,” he said. “We always need more members and interested parties. Being in BACA is a very big commitment. You’re committing to being there for that child 24/7. Not everyone can do what
we can do. When people realize what it takes, only maybe three in 10 can stick around. We require a lot of our members.” The national organization has measures in place to make sure members are not potential perpetrators or criminals. They do background checks, fingerprinting and ensure that no member is ever alone with a child.
Seeing the turnaround in the child’s life is why Tilt stays involved in the organization, despite the hard work and long hours. “Every time I see it, it’s so cool that I want to keep doing it. It’s really not that hard for us to do. So why wouldn’t we?”
Potential members or families that need their services can reach the Colorado chapter
at http://colorado.bacaworld.org or (800) 230-4852.