In recent years, former-Spice Girl Mel B has spoken about enduring a physically and emotionally abusive relationship with her ex-husband Stephen Belafonte, becoming a high profile advocate for charities supporting victims of domestic violence.
Brown and her ex-husband were together for 10 years, and from the outside looking in, it appeared to be a happy marriage at first. However, in her 2018 memoir Brutally Honest, published almost a year after their divorce was finalised, Mel alleged ongoing physical, sexual, verbal and financial abuse by Belafonte.
In 2017, shortly before a trial relating to the alleged abuse was due to start in Los Angeles, Brown and Belafonte reached a private settlement. He has denied all allegations made against him by Mel, although he has an uncontested charge of battery against another former partner, Nicole Contreras, on his record.
Now, as she features in a new video in support of Women's Aid called Love Should Not Hurt, Mel has opened up about her experience of coercive control with The Guardian, highlighting the many forms it can take.
Mel told the newspaper she hadn't heard of the term coercive control when it first started happening to her, and that the insidious nature of the control made it hard to recognise as a problem.
“It starts with tiny things [like] 'Oh, don’t wear that dress – I’ve bought you this dress,'" she said.
“It wasn’t like: ‘Put this dress on!’ It was: ‘Look what I’ve bought for you! I saw you looking at it on Net-a-Porter.’ And you think: ‘Oh my God, that’s so sweet!” when actually they’re starting to take over everything.”
Mel said Belafonte also insisted she wore certain colours. “I didn’t even know what colour I liked any more because those choices were taken away from me for so long. And I just accepted it.
“For the first year when I left my ex, I would only wear white because I felt I was clearing myself of that," she added.
Speaking to Cosmopolitan UK in 2018, Mel described how coercive control is hard to pinpoint.
"I knew [his behaviour] was wrong the night we had an argument that led to physical abuse, but the emotional abuse - the coercive control - that was very difficult for me to figure out what was going on," she said at the time. "You end up blaming yourself."
She told Cosmopolitan how Belafonte would hide her keys, making her believe she had lost them. He would later forbid her from having her own set "because you’re the person in the house who always loses things."
Small exercises of manipulation and control "chip away at [you], without you even really realising," she said.
For information and support around this issue, visit the Women's Aid website.
Cosmopolitan UK's current issue is out now and you can SUBSCRIBE HERE.
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