Domestic violence does not take a day off during the holidays. Men and women experience violence on or around major holidays when it’s supposed to be a time of family gatherings, fellowship, and long-lasting memories. Monique A. Plair is the founder of Our Safe House, LLC. Her vision is to lend an opportunity to celebrate the courageous women survivors of domestic abuse to share their stories and honor the memories of those who’ve gained their wings and are forever silenced.
Plair is a survivor of domestic violence experienced both as a child and later as a military wife. After escaping the situation with her two sons, Plair and her children experienced homeless and other challenges. Plair rose above the difficulties and followed her dream to join the Navy. Since then, Plair was inspired by the help she received from other women to acquire resources for safe housing and more to share with other women suffering from domestic violence.
Tammy Gibson: What is the definition of domestic violence? Some people think it’s just physical.
Monique Plair: Domestic violence takes on many forms. It can be mental, manipulation, mind games, and forceful conversation.
TG: Why is it so hard for women who are victims of domestic violence to report the abuse and leave their partner?
MP: Fear, shame, and pride. Especially if you are thinking about how people view you. People think you and your partner are the perfect couple. The women are intimidated into leaving their abuser’s side because they are given that persona that their relationship is beautiful and perfect. But they don’t know what happens behind closed doors. Many women enable their abusers when they don’t find their own strength to get out of that abusive situation.
TG: Why does domestic violence increase during the holidays?
MP: It could be financial stress during the holidays. The abuser will find a way to be abusive, no matter the situation. It could be not having the resources or not making enough money. The holidays are a time for celebration. For the abuser, it’s more added agitation for him or her. There are many factors that come into play. Even during the Super Bowl, there is an increase in domestic violence.
TG: Some men and women who are in domestic violence relationships don’t speak up because they don’t want to be viewed as breaking up the family during the holiday. What should they do?
MP: They have to find a way and know that it is not their fault. An abuser is going to continue to abuse as long as you enable them to do so. If you have the comfort and feel safe around family members, let them know what is going on. If you have that one person that you can trust that can help you safely plan your exit strategy without letting the abuser know what is going on, just to keep everyone safe, don’t worry about what somebody thinks about you breaking up the family during the holidays. You matter, and your safety is more important.
When you are in an abusive situation, you don’t know who you can trust. The one person you thought had your back and is supposed to protect and take care of you is the one that is abusing you. It strips away your feeling that you can trust someone. We all should know there is somebody that cares about you.
TG: What inspired you to create the fragrance BU — Beautiful Unapologetically?
MP: As an abused person myself, I went through the transition trying to gather my bearings and get the help I needed. A lady at a women’s center helped me get many things in order for me and my sons. I thought, what a beautiful way to show honor to someone that if I survived this, you can too.
We celebrate so many things in life, such as sobriety. I felt what better way to celebrate a woman who escaped this experience than to name a perfume made exclusively for her as a survivor. That’s how BU — Beautiful Unapologetically was birthed. To let women know you are a survivor. Even the women who have lost their lives have family members left behind. Those family members can still honor the memory of their loved one that didn’t have the strength to escape. The fragrance line will be named in their honor.
BU Lite is an airy daytime boost to get you through a busy day, available in Spring 2022. BU Freely is a full bouquet of delicate citrus and herbal notes for the late afternoon, available in Summer 2022. BU Nite is a long-lasting, bold, sophisticated, and elegant perfume for formal affairs and late nights, available Fall 2022.
TG: If someone is ready to leave their abuser, what necessities should they have to escape?
MP: Make sure they have their cell phone. If they don’t have a cell phone, find someone who does. When I planned my escape, I took my birth certificate, social security card, and other vital documents that I needed to have. I also packed clothes for my children. I was living in Italy with my ex-husband, who was in the Army. I knew my ex-husband’s schedule. I called one of my girlfriends stationed in Italy and told her my plan ahead of time. She knew to come to my house and take me and my children to the airport. We flew back to the United States to my father in Baltimore.
Plan your exit strategy, make sure you have everything you need that is important, such as documentation. Make your plan and stick to your plan. Sadly, many people will plan their exit strategy and negate the plan, or their abuser makes promises that they will not hit you again. It will be beautiful for a couple of days, and it will go right back to the abuse. It’s important to stick to your plan to escape.
TG: Some teenage girls think that when their boyfriend hits them, it’s because they love them, and it is acceptable? What is your response?
MP: It is not acceptable for anyone to put their hands on you. That is not love. You deserve more than that. If you love yourself enough, you already know what you will not tolerate. It’s sad that many people, especially our young ladies, think that someone being physically aggressive is a form of love. It will only continue to give the abuser power over you and strip you of your self-worth and self-esteem. The abusive situation will increase and will get worse, and you may never walk away.
I remember having conversations with my sons, letting them know that hitting a woman is not acceptable. I never want to hear a woman calling me to tell me that they were physically abused. I am thankful my sons are not like that, and their wives tell me all the time that I raised some amazing men.
TG: What are your thoughts about celebrities, especially athletes, who get a slap on the wrist for physically abusing their girlfriend/spouse?
MP: The military and professional sports get away with domestic violence. The military does very little to protect civilian wives. Professional sports only think about is a win for their team. The athlete gets a slap on the wrist or a verbal chastisement. That’s not enough. We have to press charges. It’s so disheartening that professional sports and the military don’t even value our lives as they should. Athletes should not be allowed to play professional sports at all. There need to be more severe penalties.
TG: Where do you see yourself and the future of Our Safe House, LLC?
MP: What I see is a community of women helping women. I see a plan for an event annually called “Purses, Proms, Pumps, and Perfumes.” I plan to have a big venue where vendors make contributions by giving women clothes, new pumps and they get some perfume. I want to set up women for success.
As for Our Safe House, I want to employ our community. When someone comes to Our Safe House, it will be the women that we helped that are in a position to help other women to set her up for success in every way we can. I see in the future us continuing to grow and support other safe houses.
To learn more about Our Safe Houses, LLC and BU — Beautiful Unapologetically, go to https://go-bu.com/.
Tammy Gibson is a black history traveler and author. Find her on social media @SankofaTravelHr