BILLINGS -- As reports of child abuse continue to rise across the nation, a group of unlikely heroes in Billings is gassing up efforts to help kids heal.
Bikers Against Child Abuse is a worldwide organization of bikers, founded by a licensed clinical social worker, which includes a Yellowstone River Chapter in Billings.
After his interview, Sugar, the chapter vice president, hopped on his bike with a cigarette between his teeth and revved his engine.
He didn’t get his biker name, Sugar, because he’s sweet. “I got hit with a sugar beet while I was on my bike,” said Sugar.
Sugar, along with Elvis, Sippy, Spice, Shaggy and Twister all ride for BACA.
“Bikers is our first word. Yes, we are bikers and I think that’s why it works for the children," said Sippy. "We are intimidating and they get that sense of comfort. They know that no one is going to mess with them anymore because their new family is bigger and badder than their perp is.”
They may look tough, but when it comes to kids they have big hearts.
“All their rights were taken away from ‘em. They weren’t allowed to be a kid anymore, and we step in and let them be that kid,” said Elvis, the chapter's president.
BACA empowers young victims by taking them for a group ride, letting them choose a biker name and giving them a personalized vest.
“They go from them being scared, wanting nothing to do with you, you’re just another adult that’s going to let them down to having them come running outside and so excited,” said Sippy. "It's great to watch them bloom."
BACA members undergo months of specialized training so they can also give kids the confidence to face their abusers in the courtroom.
Sugar said he tunes out the heart-wrenching testimony and focuses on the child. "I try to send all my positive energy to the child so they can do what they have to do on the stand," said Sugar. "I’m strictly there for them and nothing else.”
It’s a sense of security and support that one Billings mother said may have saved her child’s life.
"My daughter was raped by somebody we cared about and trusted," said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous. "I truly believe that if it weren’t for BACA, I wouldn’t have my little girl.”
She says her daughter began cutting herself in an effort to cope. But after she found a BACA flier and reached out, everything changed.
“My girls had nightmares for a long time. They don’t have nightmares no more," she said. "They learn that it’s OK to be broken, and there are people out there that do care and won’t hurt them.”
And that moment, when a child is no longer afraid and the wounds have begun to heal, is the reason BACA rides.
"We call it the payday, when you see the child that’s not scared anymore, not crying, sleeping though the night. And that’s what makes us do what we do everyday,” said Sippy.
“It’s awesome, it’s cloud nine," said Sugar. "You leave the courtroom and your bikes not even on the ground, you’re just floating in air on your way home. It’s the most amazing feeling in the world.”
BACA members are not paid for their work, it’s all volunteer. If you or someone you know could benefit from BACA, contact them here.