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2:37 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Child Abuse Victims Bring Some Unlikely Backup: Bikers

Originally published on Wed May 21, 2014 8:20 am

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds in this country. Victims can feel helpless, perhaps wish they had a tough looking friend to stand for them. Well, some children are getting that kind of assistance from a group of bikers, as in motorcyclist.

Gloria Hillard has the story from Los Angeles.

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GLORIA HILLARD, BYLINE: Los Angeles's Children's Court. It's 8 A.M. and from a block away you can hear them coming: The bikers.

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HILLARD: They are men and women in well-worn black leather vests, scuffed boots and denim. Most have visible tattoos and a penchant for silver jewelry.

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HILLARD: At first glance they're a pretty intimidating bunch, but not in the eyes of the small 13-year-old girl in a bright orange shirt and sneakers. She beams when she sees them standing outside the court house waiting for her.

CHARLES COOPER: That's when they need us, you know, when they're the most vulnerable.

HILLARD: That's Charles Cooper who, like the other bikers, goes by a road name, his is Frodo. He's a member of Baca, Bikers Against Child Abuse. On the back of his vest is the group's motto: No Child Deserves To Live In Fear. That's why he and the other bikers are here. For children like the girl in the bright orange shirt, who are victims of physical or sexual abuse, the courtroom can sometimes be a scary place.

COOPER: To me, the look on their face when they see us and they know that we're here for them, means everything. Because, you know, we kept our promise and that's where these kids have been let down in their lives.

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HILLARD: The towering bikers escort the girl and her younger brother into the courthouse.

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HILLARD: Four years ago, in a different courthouse, another young girl was set to testify against her abuser, her step-dad. On that day, the bikers had her back.

MARKIE DUBRY: I'm glad I had them there. I don't know how if I would have been able to make it up those stairs.

(LAUGHTER)

HILLARD: Markie Dubry is now 18. She's stands tall, but in her eyes there's still a little bit of the elementary school child whose life had been turned upside down.

DUBRY: Even though I was just a kid, I loved school and so I always got straight-As. And then after everything with my step-dad started happening. I didn't shower. I didn't eat. I didn't sleep. My grades went to straight-Fs.

HILLARD: BACA is usually contacted by family members or referred by the Department of Child and Family Services, therapists or social workers. Markie Dubry was 14 when her mother enlisted BACA's help. She says she'll never forget that day standing outside her house, hearing that sound

(SOUNDBITE OF MOTORCYCLES)

DUBRY: You're seeing all these older people come over on bikes and big jackets, all these tough looking beards. So I was like, it's super cool knowing that, oh, these people are going to watch over me. Like, no one is going to be coming around after me now.

(LAUGHTER)

SAM TOMBSTONE MCKISSICK: As a general rule, a pedophile is not going to mess with a biker. They prey on the weak.

HILLARD: Sam McKissick, who goes by Tombstone, was there that day. He's president of the Los Angeles Chapter of BACA. The 40-year-old is a lean blue-collar worker with clear eyes. He became the young girl's primary, her main contact.

MCKISSICK: That means they get your phone number. They can call you day or night and sometimes they do.

HILLARD: When a child becomes part of the BACA family, they are given their own biker vest and get to choose their own road name. Markie chose FA short for Freakin' Angel. When needed, they would escort her to school. When nightmares beckoned, they would stand guard outside her house.

DUBRY: I probably slept like 10 hours a week or so. Like, I never slept at all. And all of a sudden, after they came into the picture and they were right there in front of me, I was able to finally go to sleep. So it doesn't matter what it is, they'll watch you, no matter what.

HILLARD: BACA members are subjected to a full federal background check, in addition to intense scrutiny by the other bikers. Tombstone says you don't have to be a biker when you sign up but...

MCKISSICK: You need to act like a biker, dress like a biker and look like a biker for these kids. And it just, it works.

HILLARD: Someone who can scare the monster.

MCKISSICK: When we first get there, we stand in front of them, we stand around them. By the time they're through with this, they don't need us anymore, we worked ourselves out of job. But that's our goal.

HILLARD: He points with pride to Markie Dubry. The girl who gave herself the road name FA is now attending college and is planning on becoming a full-fledged BACA member herself. She's looking forward to learning to ride.

DUBRY: Oh yeah, without a doubt.

(LAUGHTER)

HILLARD: Someday she'll be pulling up on her own bike. And at the end of a driveway, there'll be a young girl like she once was, knowing at long last, someone was coming to her rescue.

For NPR News, I'm Gloria Hillard.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.