Langley’s Andy Bhatti is back in the bike saddle again, pedaling hundreds of kilometres to bring awareness for victims of childhood sexual abuse.
From Oct.14 to 17, Bhatti, a drug and alcohol interventionist who, himself, is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse,plans on going on an epic bike ride.
Bhatti and his good friend Graham Wardle, from the CBC TV show Heartland, will be riding their bicycles from Port Hardy to Victoria.
That’s 500 kilometres over four days.
Their goal is to raise the much needed awareness for survivors of childhood victimization, and funds for Sophie’s Place Child and Youth Advocacy Centre.
Bhatti has tackled these kinds of rides before, to help victims.
An example: in July 2013, he rode from Vernon to Vancouver for Sophie’s Place, a child advocacy centre in Surrey.
Bhatti notes that one in six males are sexually abused in Canada before the age of 16, and one in three girls before the age of 16.
Sophie’s Place is one of the few agencies in the country that provides specialized support for younger victims of abuse.
Survivors Supporting Survivors is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and resources for survivors of childhood victimization.
Through fundraising and public education, Bhatti’s goal is to eradicate the stigma associated with all forms of child sexual abuse and raise the much-needed funds for existing agencies, providing services for victims.
“Why is there no supervision of registered sex offenders, but there is on people who grow medical marijuana?” Bhatti asked. “The police put out public awareness campaigns on so called gang members and drug dealers – but not on sex offender? Sexual abuses could have been prevented, if the laws were changed.”
Bhatti said the focus for this ride is to have the government change the laws on how many hours of therapy victims of sexual abuse are covered for.
“Right now they are covered for 20 hours of therapy,” Bhatti said. “That’s 14 sessions. That’s not nearly enough hours to help heal a survivor of all the trauma and abuse they have survived.”
He continued, “If people don’t pay their child support payments or their Port Mann bridge tolls, the government will take their driver’s license and passport away. But if you’re a sex offender and you don’t pay your judgement owed to your victims awarded by the courts. The government does not step in. The laws need to change – now.”
Bhatti’s Big Brother sexually abused him over five years, from the ages of nine to 14, before Bhatti ended it by running away.
By then, the damage was done.
Once the abuse started, he started acting out and getting into fights, running away, lying, stealing and leaving school in Grade 5.
Bhatti turned to a life full of drugs, crime, gangs, and violence to escape the pain.
He started smoking marijuana at the age of 12 to, he said, “escape reality.”
By the age of 13, Bhatti had already been to jail and moved on to harder drugs. By 16, Bhatti was a full-blown heroin and cocaine addict and had spent as much time inside a jail cell as he had out on the streets.
He carried on a life of crime and addiction until he was 27 years old.
After years of being clean off cocaine, heroin, methadone and all other substances, he realized that if he could get clean, anybody can.
In 2012, Bhatti began a campaign bringing awareness to childhood sexual abuse and survivors living with addiction.
In 2015, he won the Courage to Come Back Award in the addiction category, presented by Coast Mental Health of British Columbia.
Bhatti said he strives to continue raising awareness and prevention on addiction and childhood sexual abuse, working in communities all across Canada.