Ashley Williams lived her childhood in fear. She was scared of everyone and kept her mouth shut.
When Williams was 15, she decided to speak and was no longer afraid of seeking refuge from the abuse she endured.
After watching a cousin find comfort in the Five Hills Chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse, Williams turned to the organization for help.
“It meant a lot knowing that I had a whole bunch of people that I could count on when I needed,” Williams, 19, said Saturday during the third annual Quad Cities Ride for a Child. “They were just a phone call away. It was a relief ... knowing that I wasn’t alone.”
About 50 riders left the Hooters parking lot in Killeen for Sandy’s Lone Star Events in Nolanville, where they raised more than $3,000 for child abuse prevention organizations across Central Texas. The event was sponsored by Quad Cities Ride for a Child, an organization consisting of the exchange clubs of Killeen, Copperas Cove and Gatesville, as well as Bikers Against Child Abuse.
“We ride to empower kids who have been abused to not be afraid of the world they live in,” said Janine Bunke, president of the Bikers Against Child Abuse. The organization worked with more than 60 children over the past five years and has about 25 children currently in their care. Bunke said they do a “psychological adoption,” which means the child gets a vest and road name to make them feel like part of the biker family.
Abused children live in fear, Bunke said. The victims, who are trusting of adults, are threatened and often times told lies to keep quiet, including they or family members will be killed or go to jail or that nobody will believe what they say.
“They’re very manipulated to keep their story quiet,” she said. “There’s a whole process that the perpetrator goes through to keep them quiet and most of the time it’s fear.”
Although she doesn’t have her official patch for the organization yet, Williams looks forward to helping other children feel safe the same way Bikers Against Child Abuse freed her from an abusive childhood.
“I want to be able to empower other children,” she said. “It’s a lot better to go ahead and speak up and let somebody know because there’s a whole bunch of people out there that are going through the same thing and there’s people out there that’ll help.”