OGDEN -- The four of them whip into the parking lot on their motorcycles, stopping side-by-side in formation as the throaty bellow of their bikes drowns the ambient noise of downtown Ogden. They kill their engines and step onto the pavement, their biker names displayed prominently on black vests: Ish, Jacko, Trouble and Oni.
Members of the North Wasatch chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse (B.A.C.A.), they create an intimidating presence. Everything about them, from their bulky statures to the gruff tone of some of their language, emits a tough veneer. And on this overcast afternoon, every bit of that imposing brawn is directed at people who willfully inflict pain on children.
"B.A.C.A. is kind of like barbed wire," said spokesman and chapter security officer Ish, who requested the group's biker names be used in this story. "Stay the (expletive) away from us, stay the (expletive) away from our kids, you'll probably be OK. You get too close, you're gonna get tore the (expletive) up."
But as much as their aggression is centered directly on child abusers -- and speaking with them for any length of time makes it clear there is plenty of aggression to go around -- their real focus is on the victims. They surround them with love and provide a unique support system to let the children know they aren't alone.
"They don't understand that there's a lot of people around that love and care for them because they haven't been shown that," Ish said. "Well, we do our best to step up and show them that."
B.A.C.A. was started in the 1990s by a Brigham Young University faculty member and social worker, Ish said, and it has since spread to 39 states and seven countries. These four members of the North Wasatch chapter -- which has 13 total members -- joined at various times, but as they tell the stories of why they dedicate their lives to the organization, a similar thread emerges.
"You see what happens to the kids after they're involved with B.A.C.A.," said Oni, the chapter's president. "There's a light back in their eyes."
Adds Trouble, the chapter's child liaison, and the only woman among these four members: "I've always had a fondness for kids. I relate well with them. I just want to help them."
One of the reasons the organization exists, Ish said, is because the legal system does not afford child abuse victims the necessary tools to help them cope with their abuse. So instead of allowing the children to encounter the system by themselves, at a time they're often vulnerable and afraid, B.A.C.A. steps in.
"When a child is abused, they're alone," Ish said. "A lot of times, nobody believes them, and they're scared to come out with it. When it does finally get into the system, and they do report it, the system's focus really turns onto protecting the perpetrator's rights, and the kids kind of get brushed aside.
"These kids have already been victimized and are in a vulnerable position in their lives, and it's just kind of, 'Well, OK, now you've got to wait it out.' And there's some cases where these things stretch out for years before the kid gets justice."
B.A.C.A. engages in differing levels of involvement with children, depending on their needs. The first step is to meet with a child and give them a biker name and a vest and assign two members as the child's primary contacts. Sometimes that, letting a child know he or she is part of a family, is all that is necessary to put a child at ease.
Other times, particularly when a perpetrator is harassing a victim, B.A.C.A. takes additional steps, even going so far as to warn the perpetrator's neighbors that a child abuser lives nearby, or stand watch around the clock outside a victim's home to make them feel safe.
"If it takes us sitting out there in the middle of the night so that kid can get some rest, that's what we're going to do," Ish said. "The system can't do that. The system doesn't do that, though maybe they should do that."
The organization will also accompany children to their court dates, where, Ish said, the accused often have several supporters, which can be intimidating to children taking the stand alone amid a crowded courtroom.
"It doesn't matter how many supporters that abuser brings with them to court, there's a helluva lot more of us than there is of them," Ish said. "You can knock 10 of us down, there will be 100 more of us the next day ... Somehow they usually smarten up and leave our kids alone."
As Ish says this, Jacko smiles. There is one particular story of a girl who was nervous before court that has stuck with him. Members of B.A.C.A., he says, gathered in a circle around the girl, as she squatted in the middle, looking up at them while she waited to testify. She drew strength from them. She found her courage. By the time it was her turn in court, she looked her abuser in the eye.
"You could see confidence build in her," Jacko said. "She had a family around her."
With a chuckle, Jacko adds the perpetrators are usually unhappy to see B.A.C.A. in court. Ish quickly corrects him: "Always unhappy."
Perpetrators, Ish explains, thrive on their power over a child. But when they see in the court B.A.C.A. supporting the child they abused, perpetrators understand the child is no longer helpless. The child has friends who aren't afraid of the abuser, and eventually, the child won't be afraid either.
And that, helping children understand they are no longer subject to their abuser's power, that they no longer have anything to fear, is one of B.A.C.A.'s main goals.
"The thing I've found with child abusers is they're all (expletive) cowards," Ish said. "They prey on who they assume are the weak ... But I ain't scared of them. And if I'm not scared of them, my brothers and sisters ain't scared of them. And that child, sooner or later, isn't scared of them."