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After leaving an allegedly violent marriage, Mel B literally 'cut' her husband out of her body.

This post deals with domestic violence and suicide and might be triggering for some readers.

After leaving her husband, film producer Stephen Belafonte, Mel B had a tattoo cut out of her skin.

"Stephen, till death do us part, you own my heart," the tattoo down her side read. But after 10 years with Belafonte, Mel B had escaped what she alleges was a violent and abusive relationship, and decided to have the name cut from her body.

According to The Guardian, she also 'had her vagina surgically scraped and new tissue put in.'

After she had physically healed, Mel B's journey with emotional healing was more complicated.

Watch: We lose one woman every week in Australia to domestic violence, but that's just the tip of a very grim iceberg. Post continues below video.


Video via Mamamia.

After her decade-long marriage to Belafonte ended in 2017, the singer turned X Factor judge went public with allegations that the film producer/director had subjected her to sustained abuse, including "multiple physical beatings", drugging her, hitting her, choking her and forcing her to make more than 20 sex tapes.

He denied the allegations and claimed she was addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Hours before a trial relating to the alleged domestic violence was due to start in Los Angeles, Mel B and Belafonte reached a private settlement.

Rumours surrounded their relationship before Mel B, now 45, ever made a statement. In 2014, she missed an appearance as judge on the X Factor UK because she was rushed to hospital.

When she next turned up for filming, she had visible bruises which viewers and media picked up on.

She later posted on Instagram to say her husband would never lay a hand on her, and in 2018 shared that she had attempted suicide.

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Image: Getty.

Speaking to The Guardian as patron for UK domestic violence charity Women's Aid, Mel B said she lied a lot during that period of her life. 

Recognised around the world as lively, boisterous Scary Spice, she said she became withdrawn and quieter.

"You're living in a nightmare, and then tell the outside world that everything is fine because you're so embarrassed, and riddled with guilt, and worried that nobody's going to believe you," she explained.

She told The Guardian that with hindsight, she could recognise the behaviours used to keep her in their relationship. 

She alleged coercive control, which she didn't know was a thing at the time, began soon after they married, Mel B said.

"It starts with tiny things," she said. "'Oh, don't wear that dress – I've bought you this dress.'

"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."

She said Belafonte insisted she only wore certain colours.

"For the first year when I left my ex, I would only wear white because I felt I was clearing myself of that.

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"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."

It was only after returning to home in Leeds, England and attending a support group for abuse survivors that she realised her story was not unique.

"It's like abusers have all read the same handbook. Before you know it you don't have your own front door key, or you don't even drive your own car anymore," she said. 

"Those 'privileges' which we worked so hard to get – your nice car, your nice house – are slowly taken away from you. Your power is taken away and the only person you have to rely on is your abuser."

Mel B said she tried to leave seven times, and contemplated suicide often.

"I didn't have anywhere to go, I didn't have my own credit card, I didn't have a car, I've got three kids, I was very on the edge of self-destruction... It seems like the simplest thing, get up and leave, but when you've got kids involved there's other coercive control that comes on top of it, like: 'I'm going to take your kids away, I'm going to tell everyone you're a drug addict and alcoholic' – which he did."

In 2019, she told British podcast, If I Can Do It, she felt blackmailed and manipulated into staying.

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"I was given the drugs and the booze by my abuser… that's another form of controlling. They keep you in a dazed and confused mental state, so they can carry on abusing you," she said.

"In my situation, he took pictures and videos – stuff that I can't even remember – then he would hold that against me. Like, 'If you walk out that door, if you leave me, [remember] last night I [took pictures of] you, last night I took a video of you.'"

Mel B with her two youngest daughters in 2016. Image: Getty.

Mel B has three daughters: Phoenix, 22, with Dutch dancer Jimmy Gulzar, Angel Iris, 14, with Eddie Murphy, and Madison, nine, with Belafonte.

As part of her work with Women's Aid, Mel B has released a four-minute wordless film about domestic abuse titled Love Should Not Hurt.

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In it, she presents herself as a successful woman to the outside world, while being abused by her partner in private.

Speaking about the film, she said the project meant a lot to her as a collaboration of three things that are important to her: "Music, dance and a way to highlight the ever-increasing issue of violence towards women".

All the abuse depicted in the film was based on true events told to her by women who reached out after reading her 2018 book, Brutally Honest.

"Whether it be the spitting or the strangulation, these are things that actually happen. They are all these women's stories," she told The Sun.

When she did leave, she felt a need to escape all the physical reminders of her ex too, which is why she opted to have her tattoo removed surgically rather than by laser.

"I just thought, 'I can't go through the pain of getting it lasered off,'" she told UK talk show Loose Women in 2018.

"I've saved it in a jar, which sounds a bit strange, I know... Nobody can see it, but I know it's there, and it's off my body so it makes me feel so much better."

Mel B and daugher Phoenix in 2018. Image: Getty.

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Mel B said for a year after her divorce, she couldn't be hugged or touched.

"If someone came too close to me my hairs would stand on end, even in regular, everyday life," she recalled.

When she returned to Leeds after years in Los Angeles, she said her mother assumed she'd make a quick recovery now that she felt safe.

Mel B did feel safe, but she also knew her trauma would not evaporate because of it.

"My mother said: 'You're going to be fine now – you're back home.' And I thought, I know I'm not fine. I jump when somebody comes into the room, I wake up in night sweats still thinking I'm back in that bed in LA," she told The Guardian.

"There are so many things that have an after-effect that will probably go on for my entire life. I just have to learn how to deal with it. You can't erase those kind of traumas."

But support groups and speaking about her experiences have helped. She used to have nightmares nearly every night. Now it's only a couple of times a month.

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She thought another romantic relationship was "impossible", but found herself to be wrong.

"There is a way out of it. It takes somebody who's very kind, understanding and patient to help you out of that unwanted cycle you fear going back into," she told The Sun.

"You can have a loving, caring relationship. It just takes a lot of time and a lot of trust. The person who enters into it with you has to understand how sensitive you are about your barriers.

"It's really hard for a man, especially for a man who has never been abusive to a woman. An actual man who thinks, 'How can a man do that to a woman?'

"It's about building that foundation because for women who have been abused, the foundation is absolutely shattered. No ifs or buts about that."

Mel B told The Guardian by the time her relationship with Belafonte ended in 2017, she had no self-esteem left.

"I felt so much self-hate. I'd lied to so many people. Then I felt very angry that I'd let that person get away with all that for 10 years," she said.

Now, she's learned to like herself again.

"Yeah, I genuinely do [like myself]. It took me a long time to say that, but I think I'm really engaging, and I'm really nosy, which makes for a good listener. Yeah, I think I'm great."

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home. 

You can also call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au for further information.

Feature image: Getty/ITV.