WARNING: this post contains descriptions of alleged domestic violence which may be distressing to some readers. For 24-hour assistance please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or 1800 RESPECT.
When singer and television host Mel B (Melanie Brown) was this week granted a temporary restraining order against her husband, weight was sadly lent to years of rumours, of gossip and tabloid speculation.
Via detailed court documents published by various media outlets, the former Spice Girl threw open the doors on her private world to allege years of emotional and physical abuse at the hands of the man she loved, the father of her five-year-old daughter, Stephen Belafonte.
This is their dark history, according to the 41-year-old’s claims.
The emotional abuse.
The couple wed in Las Vegas in June, 2007, after a two-month courtship during which Brown was heavily pregnant to former partner, actor Eddie Murphy.
According to her restraining order application, Belafonte, now 41, initially appeared to be "very much there" for her and her newborn, Angel. But things "quickly turned sour".
She alleges the American film producer would insult her appearance, call her "fat, ugly and old", would tell her no other man would want her, that she was "worthless", "stupid", that he made her who she was.
"When making these vulgar comments," she alleges in the document, "he would put his face inches in front of mine and scream insults at me."
The threesomes and threats.
After just one year of marriage, Brown claims she tried to leave, and did so again every year thereafter. But before she could walk out the door, Belafonte allegedly threatened to release explicit videos of her both to the tabloids and child services.
"Once the Respondant made the threat to release the videos," she states in the court documents, "it became impossible to say no to him, giving him complete control."
Belanfonte also allegedly used this control to persuade his wife to participate in threesomes with "random women" he would bring back to their hotel rooms. Several of these encounters, Brown claims, were filmed without her knowledge, adding yet more ammunition to his arsenal of threats.
Sarah Ferguson and Andrew a former abuser talk about Domestic Violence in Australia. Post continues...
When they were first married, Brown was not only unaware that her new husband had been married previously, she didn't even know his real name.
While he has reportedly claimed to be the son of singer Harry Belafonte, he bares no relation. His legal surname, as Brown eventually discovered, is in fact Stansbury.
This deception, Brown alleges, continued. She claims that just last month he hid her passport in an attempt to stop her travelling to England to visit her dying father. "Suck it up," she claims he told her. "If he's going to die, he's going to die".
Brown was reportedly forced to obtain an emergency passport, and thankfully arrived in time to see her father before he passed away on March 4.
The physical abuse.
Tabloid speculation about the couple's relationship began in earnest in 2014, when Brown appeared on The X Factor UK, her arms littered with scratch marks and bruises, her face swollen.
At the time she denied anything was wrong. "For the record, my hubby would never lay a hand on me," she tweeted. But court documents now allege otherwise.
The first instance Brown claims occurred in 2007, when he allegedly choked her and slammed her to the ground. Then in 2010, he allegedly punched her in the face for "flirting" with singer Usher while recording a segment for X Factor Australia. The alleged assault left her with a swollen lip so plainly obvious she was forced to pretend she'd suffered an allergic reaction to shellfish.
In 2012 came another alleged assault, this time in Prague. Punched and shoved down on the carpet, Brown suffered carpet burns to her face. Again, her injuries were so obvious she had to develop another lie — a fall in 7-inch heels.
"Later I would come to realise that Respondent's beatings and abuse would coincide with my career success," she states in the court document. "When something good would happen for me, he would beat me down to let me know he was in charge."
Belafonte was previously convicted on domestic violence charges for an assault on the mother of his eldest child. According to The Los Angeles Times, he was sentenced in 2003 to 36 months probation and 30 days in jail, the latter of which he swapped for 20 days of community service.
In 2010, Belafonte hired exchange student Lorraine Gilles as a nanny for their daughter. She was just 20 years old at the time, and in Brown's words, "quite beautiful".
It was not long, Brown claims, before she discovered the pair were having an affair, one that allegedly resulted in a pregnancy.
"[He] told me he wanted her to have the baby and all three of us live together," she claims in the document. "I was shocked in disbelief."
Belafonte allegedly later demanded Gilles obtain an abortion, and used Brown's money to pay for a hotel so she could recover after the procedure.
The divorce and restraining order.
Brown filed for divorce from Belafonte on March 23, and for the temporary restraining order on Monday.
The request was granted the same day, and he is now required to stay 100 yards (91.4m) away from Brown and her children, and is prevented from making any contact or threatening her in any way.
Belfonte, however, claims he's been falsely accused.
“I’m shocked at these allegations,” Belafonte told TMZ on Tuesday. “I think someone’s trying to set me up to look like a bad guy.”
According to The Los Angeles Times, criminal charges are unlikely as it's understood Brown never contacted police in the US.