We see them on the streets on noisy motorcycles. We do not even suspect that perhaps those bikers will give strength to the abused children, who, because of the abuse they have suffered, live in fear. The men and women of BACA are volunteers dedicated to removing fear from abused childrenwho through no fault of their own have been hurt, sometimes by the people closest to them.
Bikers Against Child Abuse (italy.bacaworld.org) is a worldwide organization founded over 25 years ago in the United States, with the intention of giving strength and instilling courage in children who have suffered sexual, physical or mental abusehelping them not to be afraid of the world they live in.
“To join the B.A.C.A – explains Uncle Vin, a 57-year-old Florentine belonging to the Toscano Old Bridge Chapter of BACA – an ‘applicant’ must pass a security check and undertake a long training program. Once you complete your training, you are eligible to become a member and thus Primary for a child. Primarys are the main point of contact with our children and remain in service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Thorough training is absolutely necessary before coming into contact with abused children, because even one mispronounced word can change everything.
Uncle Vin, can you tell us more about the BACA organization?
“First of all, I will emphasize that we are not a substitute for law enforcement agencies, with whom we cooperate. We are not vigilantes and we are not here to punish abusers. We do not believe in the use of force or physical violence. We focus only on children. Our goal is to make sure they no longer live in fear.”
“As motorcyclists, when we show up on motorbikes, wearing clothes that have nothing to do with the normal daily life lived by children, we stand out – he continues -. We are different from their dating with psychotherapists, social workers and doctors. Our presence is specifically aimed at removing fear from children’s lives, providing the commitment, dedication and patience that each case needs”.
How do you get such an important result?
“BACA has two Levels of Intervention. Level one is a short ceremony, where the child meets the local Chapter who welcomes him to the BACA family From the very beginning, the child will understand that from now on, we will always be there for him, twenty four hours a day, 365 days per year. “
“It is a deeply felt event, attended by BACA members from all over Italy; sometimes from other European countries – emphasizes Luce’s interlocutor! – . Each BACA Member has a Street Name that they use to carry out Missions, and when children join the family they also choose their Street Name, both to maintain anonymity and to ensure greater safety. At the ceremony, the children are given a vest, like ours, with their chosen street name applied, and they meet their new BACA brothers and sisters. In addition, we also give our children a teddy bear and a blanket, telling them that every time who are afraid, can cuddle their teddy bear and wrap themselves in the blanket to feel the embrace of BACA. When we are with our BACA Child we do not smoke, drink alcohol and do not wear sunglassesso they can clearly see who we are.”
“During Level One, the child is also assigned two Primarys, these are BACA Members who will interact with the child in the months to come. The child is given the Primaries’ phone numbers and told they can call them anytime. In addition to answering the child’s calls, the Primary organizes regular meetings with the minor. These meetings are carefree occasions, we will take the child with us for an ice cream or to the park. “
What is the regularity of your meetings with the children?
“Usually, the children’s meetings with his Primary take place every two weeks (BACA Members never go to a child alone, ‘for their safety and ours’ (explains ndr). As the child gains confidence and fear fades, we increase the time between visits until the empowerment journey is complete, after which we disengage. This does not mean that we will abandon the child: we will always be there, it is simply that the child now understands how strong he is; with or without our presence”.
What about the second level of intervention?
“A level two intervention is about the physical safety of the child. For example, if there is a credible threat to a child’s safety, whether in a secure facility or at home, we will be there to protect the child, in no way a substitute for law enforcement. Thanks to our presence, the children feel safe and their fear is reduced”.
“We are also available to stand outside a child’s home if there is the possibility that the aggressor, although removed, may return and try to enter – continues the story of the Florentine centaur – . In this case, we alternate with other BACA Members and protect it. For children, knowing that they can always count on people willing to mobilize immediately if they call is synonymous with safety”.
What can members of your organization do if there is a real threat to the child from the abuser?
“We immediately call the police, and while we wait for them to arrive, we are the obstacle between the attacker and the child. Our mission statement includes these words: We are ready to protect these children from further abuse. We do not in any way condone the use of violence or physical force, however, if circumstances arise where we are the only obstacle standing between the child and further abuse, we stand ready to be that obstacle.”.
“We also take our children to court when they have to testify. These are very delicate moments where the child can also see his abuser, so we empower the child with our presence. In Italy we are generally not allowed to enter the classroom, so we wait for them outside, but our children know perfectly well that we are there to support them”.
What is the average age of your children?
“We provide support to children in need, there is no specific age. We work with children once they are old enough to testify, up until the age of eighteen. We also evaluate that the child can understand what we are doing”.
How do children usually react to your presence?
“It all depends on the child. Some are amazed to be faced with bikers (so different people than they are used to) some are quiet at first but soon engage with us, while others are immediately happy to meet us. Overall, everyone is excited and can’t wait to see their Primarys again in the coming weeks.”
How are BACA cases selected?
“In our organization, every Chapter has a Child Liaison Member, who is the first contact with family and social services during the assessment phase. There is an unavoidable criterion of eligibility for cases: the abused child must live in fear; this is our Mission… to remove fear from abused children. After the assessment there is an initial contact meeting where we explain how we are different from other support services, what we do and what we don’t do. They certainly don’t expect to see bikers, rather the usual policemen, medical professionals or social services. From that moment our work begins: we will never ask them questions, nor will we ask them their real names; we will only use the chosen street name”.
What’s your attitude?
“We have great respect for every child. We never make promises we can’t keep. Children have experienced disappointments before, at home, at school or where abuse has occurred. We always do what we say, which is why we are careful with our words. If we promise to be there, we make sure that promise is kept.”
And how are potential cases of BACA reported?
“Normally, cases of child abuse are reported to us by social workers, psychologists, anti-violence centers and law enforcement agencies, with whom we have important active collaborations”.
Do the children you support all live in reception facilities?
“No, not only. We support children in all situations, from those living in foster homes to those residing in sheltered homes or even in their own home from which, however, the aggressor has been removed. Every individual who wants to join BACA starts the same path. To become a child’s Primary Member, he or she must undergo a safety check and undergo extensive training. Initially, the individual is welcomed and we carry out a mutual assessment for a minimum of three months. This allows us to understand if the applicant has the inner strength to continue this path. After that, you become a Supporter and start the next phase of training.“
What’s it about?
“These phases include both online training and interviews. At the end of each stage, the Supporter is reviewed by the Chapter Executive Council, his or her rating is evaluated eligibility to continue. Once all phases have been completed, the Supporter is eligible to be considered for full membership and can become a Primary for a child. Only fully trained Members can come into direct contact with our BACA Children.
to know more
To learn more about BACA and its mission to empower abused children, visit italy.BACAworld.org