Perhaps the first thing you think of when you hear the word “bikers” is a quaint little cruiser bicycle with teal spokes, or maybe a slick road bicycle ready for the Tour de France. But we are talking about a more hardcore biker today – the Hell’s Angels type of bikers. Except, these bikers take to the road to work against and prevent child abuse, and give children support in some of the most badass men and women who take to the streets. Bikers Against Child Abuse might sound like an oxymoron to you, but the work they do has been changing lives. I had the pleasure of interviewing Kimberly “Nips” Matheson of Bikers Against Child Abuse about their mission, their vehicle for success, and how they have changed the landscape for abuse victims.
Aimee: Why did you choose to start an anti-child-abuse initiative with bikers? What was the motivation behind getting involved through this demographic of people, reaching out to victims of abuse? Nips: "Initiative" is not quite the word I would use to describe what motivates (B.A.C.A). Our mission started as an effort to help one child who was a victim of abuse. Empowering that child "To not feel afraid of the world in which he lives" became a concern for the many children who experience abuse. Our particular group of bikers, are dedicated biker brothers and sisters who love to ride, (that's what bikers do), those who are drawn to B.A.C.A. as an organization are compelled to "ride for a reason", our reason, our mission, is abused children. The reward for being there to help empower a child through a very challenging ordeal is priceless. We are "keepers of the children", kids dig that. Bikers understand brotherhood, and are very protective of their own, the image is one that lends itself nicely to our mission to protect children. So I'm not sure it's not more like, kids chose us to be their protectors, we accepted the invitation. It was a natural fit. Aimee: What do you hope to achieve through your work with the BACA initiative? (Both short term and long term?) Nips: Empowerment. Abuse is a cycle, it exists through generational conditioning. A child becomes "conditioned" into thinking that's the way the world works, either through being abused, or abusing others. We help them understand that it isn't supposed to be that way. Our mission to empower victims, one child at a time is both a short, and long term challenge. By empowering a child today, there is a better chance that he does not remain a victim or become an abuser tomorrow.
Aimee: Tell us briefly about your experience with the B.A.C.A. Initiative in action.
Nips: I believe that any member you were to ask about their experience would tell you the B.A.C.A. experience is very rewarding. When a child is empowered and able to tell what has happened to them in a court of law and aid in the prosecution of their abuser, it's payday! Payday for the child by not having to live in fear that the abuser will be able to hurt them again, and payday for us because we have helped them get there by lending them our emotional and physical support.
Aimee: What were the impressions and reactions of the people with whom you worked and served? What about the general public?
Nips: B.A.C.A. in general is well received by those we have come in contact with. State and local agencies we work in conjunction with are supportive of our efforts. No other organization focuses on empowering the victim like we do. We simply care and believe that every child is entitled to a happy childhood. Since B.A.C.A. started in 1995 (by JP "Chief" Lilly) we have become International, with chapters around the world. With that being said and with that kind of expansion it would be safe to say we are well received well globally.
Aimee: What has the impact been in your regions/neighborhoods when it comes to child abuse?
Nips: B.A.C.A.'s impact on abuse itself, regionally or otherwise, is a bit difficult to evaluate. However, on an individual level, to the kids we serve, the ones who have allowed us to be a part of their lives, it is very easy to evaluate. B.A.C.A. kids become more self-confident, they are happier and well adjusted. We have seen children go through many changes. We have seen kids go from being very shy and withdrawn, to outgoing and at ease with the world around them. We are the best paid volunteers in the world, we get to see kids flourish and that priceless.
Aimee: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your work, or B.A.C.A. in general? Nips: Bikers Against Child Abuse (B.A.C.A.) exists with the intent to create a safer environment for abused children. We exist as a body of bikers to empower children to no feel afraid of the world in which they live. We stand ready to lend support to our wounded friends by involving them with an established untied organization. We work in conjunction with local and state officials who are already in place to protect children. We desire to send a clear message to all involved with the abused child that this child is a part of our organization, and that we are prepared to lend our physical and emotional support to them by affiliation and our physical presence. We stand ready to shield these children from further abuse. We do not condone the use of violence or physical force in any manner, however, should circumstances arise such that we are the only obstacle preventing a child from further abuse, we stand ready to be that obstacle.
Aimee: Thank you so much, Nips, and the rest of the B.A.C.A. team for your work and sharing your time with me to spread the message of respect for human life and dignity.