'Teddy bears' on bikes fight domestic abuse
FULTON – Bikers can have a reputation of being intimidating, often outfitted in leather, tattoos while driving motorcycles. The Defenders of the Abused, or DOA, use their intimidation to scare off "bad people."
“We are out to fight abuse and hopefully eradicate it in all its forms,” said Breeze Meyer, one of the founders and national president of DOA.
The DOAs work with local law enforcement to help get victims out of dangerous situations. Meyer said they find people shelters, as well as sit in court cases to help victims face their abusers.
“We are not vigilantes. We are not out here to kick abusers’ butts,” Meyer said. “We will get [victims] to the resources they need to start rebuilding their lives.”
“It’s like having a group of big brothers who are willing to protect you,” Robyn Meyer, Breeze’s wife and vice president of the mid-Missouri chapter, said.
This Christmas, the group is adopting two families who have experienced abuse and need help getting on their feet.
“It’s like playing Santa Claus. It makes you feel good, and hey, that family is going to have Christmas,” former member Austin Kadow, said. “I look kind of rough, I’m missing the white beard, but I’m excited.”
Meyers said they want to give back to the community, because they haven’t always been the most up-standing citizens. The group volunteers at soup kitchens, works with small businesses and passes out flyers.
“We are all just a bunch of teddy bears,” Breeze Meyers said.
Even though the DOAs do most of their work locally, the group is known nationwide.
Five founding members from all over the country started DOA, and there are now chapters in 13 different states with a total of more than 250 members.
There are three chapters and close to 40 members in Missouri. The mid-Missouri chapter is based out of Fulton.
The group’s start in 2015 was inspired by events that hit close to home. Robyn Meyer said she was abused before she met him, and her story inspired her husband to take action.
“When we started dating I told him about my past. He wanted to do to my abuser what was done to me,” Robyn said. “I have gotten over it. I don’t allow my abuser to have any impact on me now because I don’t want him to have power over me.”
She said her husband wanted to help other people that were in the situation she had been in.
“I basically had to do it all on my own,” Robyn said.
“We are finally getting large enough to where we can make our existence known publicly. We’ve been doing this in the shadows because we were afraid that if we got out there and didn’t have the man power to be able to actually help, we would let people down,” Breeze Meyer said.
Contrary to their appearance, many of the members of DOA do not ride motorcycles. Riding a motorcycle is not a requirement to join the organization.
Breeze Meyer said DOA will achieve non-profit status in February.