Mel B’s memoir shows how even the most privileged victims are trapped by abusers

Loose Women
Mel B’s marriage and divorce from Stephen Belafonte was a classic and heartbreaking study of how abuse operates, and how narcissistic abusers work to control, isolate, gaslight and blame their victim. (See also: Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.) During her divorce the press reported that there were sex tapes of Mel, that she was in a controlling relationship with her children’s nanny, and that she had threesomes. These were all stories released by Stephen to try to smear her. In a 2017 request for a restraining order, Mel detailed Stephen’s abuse including beating her, forcing her into threesomes, secretly taping them and threatening to ruin her by releasing those tapes. She also described a suicide attempt in 2014, shortly after she was seen on the set of X-Factor with visible bruises and not wearing her wedding ring. (The Sun has those photos here.) It turns out that Mel made sure that her arms were visible and that her bruises weren’t covered up. In her new memoir, Brutally Honest, [excerpt via The Sun] she tells her side of the story and it’s harrowing. She attempted suicide and the bruises were from her trying to escape from the room where she was trapped.

On her suicide attempt
HERE I am, 39 years of age, staring in a mirror in the en-suite bathroom of my rented house in Kensington, London, holding an open bottle of aspirin from the stash I’ve stockpiled over the years, putting one pill after another into my mouth.

As each pill goes into my mouth, I ask myself: “Are you sure?” And I take another one. Ten, 20, 50, 100. “Are you sure?”

It’s Thursday night. 11 December 2014. I’ve come back from dinner with my husband Stephen. Tomorrow I’m going to The X Factor.

It will be the red-carpet launch for the final weekend. I’ll be wearing a beautiful dress, my hair and make-up will be perfect. But if you want the absolute truth, I don’t care about any of it. My life is a mess and I want out…

Suicide was not the answer. I had to make my life count. I had to get to a hospital. I had to get those pills out of my stomach before anything happened.

My head was spinning. All I thought was that I needed to get out of the room but for some reason the door was jammed.

I can’t clearly remember what happened next but I remember throwing myself at the door, crashing my full weight against it.

Those bruises on my face and shoulder everyone saw at The X Factor final three days later — most of them were caused by those moments trapped in that doorway.

I can’t remember the pain but I can still remember the fear, panic and absolute confusion in my head…

If you think I was surrounded [in the hospital] by friends, relatives, other concerned celebrities and flowers, you would be wrong. Thanks to my relationship with Stephen, I was pretty much on my own apart from my security, my hairdresser and Simon my publicist…

On choosing a sleeveless dress for her X-Factor return after her suicide attempt
I would stand proud in this stunning white dress, the marks of my agony all over me. I asked for my hair to be pulled right back from my face. I needed to be seen. I needed all those bruises to be seen.

My message to the world and to my husband was going to be VERY CLEAR. I wanted people out there watching to be my witnesses. I took off my vast, square-cut diamond wedding ring. A ring I’d worn on The X Factor a few weeks before to show the world what a solid couple Stephen and I were.

[From The Sun]

The Sun has another excerpt from Mel’s memoir, in which she talks about her sex life and how it went from consensual swinging and recreational drug use to horrifying and traumatic. She experienced blackouts and what sounds like near overdoses in some of those encounters. Stephen took 65 hours of video of her (that she knows of) to use as leverage. Her account of having to watch those videos was moving. She writes “I like sex. I am adventurous with sex. I have enjoyed threesomes. I have initiated threesomes. I enjoy a woman’s body and I enjoy a man’s body. I have participated in threesomes while being videoed… I am frightened when I see myself in some of these videos. I have seen myself used sexually in a way that I did not enjoy or want.”

Mel is a enormously wealthy, famous woman and it took her two years after her suicide attempt to escape her abuser. This is just a small glimpse of how abusers operate, and it absolutely shows how women end up trapped in this vicious cycle. Also, you don’t have to admire someone or consider them a perfect victim to have sympathy and believe that they were abused.

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17 Responses to “Mel B’s memoir shows how even the most privileged victims are trapped by abusers”

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  1. Wilady says:

    There are people in all income brackets who are healthy or unhealthy, abusive or abused, have amazing work ethic or terrible work ethic, etc. Money does not make you who you are, but it can magnify it.

    Happy she was able to get herself be out and find her power. Hope she gains more strength and happiness every day.

    • Roux says:

      Her story is really important and I hope that plenty of women hear it. I’ve been in and escaped from an abusive relationship myself and when I tell people my story, they say it’s sad but it would never happen to them. They all say that they’re too strong, too smart, would stop it as soon as it started. If only it were that black and white. It’s easy to shift the blame onto the victim because sometimes it makes us feel better and feel safe. It clearly happened to me because I’m too stupid, too vulnerable and too naive or weak. The reality is that these abusers can and will get inside your head and twist things so much that you can’t see reality anymore.

      • Otaku fairy... says:

        Good point. I think the “It would never happen to me/I wouldn’t put up with that!” response from girls and women is sometimes a visceral reaction to knowing that women have been expected to just put up with domestic violence from husbands, relatives, etc. But even if unintentional, it does put more blame and shame on the victim and imply that it’s a matter of abused women having the wrong personalities.

  2. Lucy says:

    Look at that picture of her in the grey/black dress. They are in public, she’s supossed to be looking happy and yet she looks absolutely terrified.

  3. Maddy says:

    I am so glad she is sharing her story, especially when she discusses how the lines were blurred (some swinging was consensual, but that does not mean she was not taken advantage of in other instances). It is good for people who may be suffering to see that it can happen to anyone no matter how rich, beautiful or successful you are.
    It is not on the same level, but when I was a teenager my boyfriend cheated on me and I cried about why wasn’t I pretty enough etc. etc. and my mum just pointed to Cheryl Cole and said – see a woman as beautiful as that is cheated on, it can happen to anyone. Some people are just cheaters and it is not your fault.

  4. Digital Unicorn says:

    Am glad she got away from him, he had a long history of abuse before he met Mel – IIRC his ex publicly warned her about him even if his violent behaviour towards the press weren’t enough evidence of what kind of man he is. I hope Mel see’s the signs for the future so she can stay clear of men like him.

  5. BlueSky says:

    I think they got together when she was pregnant if I’m not mistaken. That would have made her vulnerable.
    Guys like that prey on women who are vulnerable and have self esteem issues . I’m glad she got out and is telling her story.

    • Jennifer says:

      Society needs to get away from the message that these victims are always vulnerable or have self esteem problems. The 4 qualities that abusers look for are: kindness (willing to put others needs above their own), loyalty, truthfulness (honest about their needs wants and desires so the abuser can manipulate them based off the information their victims give), and dedication. Basically, abusers look for intrinsically good people, not intrinsically damaged people. The damage to the self esteem typically occurs during the abusive relationship, thus creating the myth that DV survivors were victims because of their damage and not that the abuse created the damage.

      • Jane Doe says:

        Thank you for saying this.

      • BlueSky says:

        @Jennifer, this is not me saying this. She said this in 2017 when she filed a restraining order against him. She described how he groomed her. She said “At the time, I was vulnerable, I was giving birth as a single mother, my self esteem was very low, and my hormones were out of balance due to pregnancy. He rushed to help me in every way. However his kindness quickly turned sour as he became controlling, manipulative, and abusive.”

      • Moe says:

        Jennifer: I am a dv support worker. I am SO glad you said this. While it is true perpetrators often take advantage of a women’s fertility status, the whole low self esteem thing is just shifting the blame to the woman. In my experience people say this because these women do seem to have low self esteem but thus is BECAUSE of the relationship. They were often happy and confident people before peep breaks them down. Abusers look for kind, giving, empathetic people who generally see the good in all people. THIS is what makes them vulnerable.

  6. Meg says:

    i feel like this was the strength of big little lies-very wealthy women still affected by abuse. yes, black and brown women, not cis gendered LGBTQ have higher chances of being affected-but wealthy women can still be abused too.
    mel b was stuck with this guy after eddie murphy ghosted her? jesus this woman deserves a good relationship after all that.

  7. iconoclast59 says:

    Just like people think it’s rape only when some stranger jumps out of the bushes or crawls through the bedroom window, many think that abusers are assholes right out of the gate, and they can’t understand why the victim is in the relationship in the first place. They don’t realize that abusers often come across as very attentive and charming at first, saying all the right things and “love bombing” their victims. It’s only when the victim feels cozy, comfortable, and loved-up that the abuser turns the tables and starts controlling, criticizing, and escalating. I was in such a relationship, and while, fortunately, I got out before it became physically abusive, I stayed in longer than I should have, because I was frantically trying to get that “nice guy” back. My abuser, of course, fed into this mentality by telling me I was the reason he was so angry/disappointed with me. If only I hadn’t said this, or done that, he would’ve been just fine. It took being a few years out of the relationship and Gavin de Becker’s book The Gift of Fear to realize that his actions were all carefully choreographed to manipulate me.

    We need to teach young people how to recognize the red flags of an abusive relationship. We romanticize a lot of behaviors instead of calling them out as creepy and controlling. It’s not “romantic” when your partner shows up uninvited, especially if you stated that you have other plans. It’s not “romantic” when your partner gives you a cellphone and then calls/texts you 20 times a day to ask where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing. It’s not “romantic” when your partner won’t take your “no” at face value and instead whines, pouts, and cajoles you until you say “yes.” I wish Mel B peace and healing, and I hope she finds happiness, whether it be with a loving partner or remaining solo.

  8. Marie says:

    In college, I found myself in an abusive relationship. When I ended it and worked through how to talk about it and admit to friends and family what had been going on, I remember saying that I felt ashamed for having allowed it to happen. Someone said the following and it stuck with me: Put a frog in boiling water, and it will jump right out of the pot. Put a frog in lukewarm water and slowly raise the temperature to a boil, it will never realize what’s happening until it’s too late.

  9. Aurora says:

    I have never been in a physically abusive relationship, but my first relationship was emotionally abusive, although I have only come to put the word abusive on it now. He made me feel insecure, jealous and not good enough all the time. I started to think I just WAS insecure, but with my partner now, I am completely secure and never get jealous. I learnt that I am not intrinsically insecure and jealous – he made me feel that way. My new partner does not.