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13th Mar 2024

Mel B bravely opens up and brings awareness to the impacts of financial abuse

Jody Coffey

Mel B

Trigger Warning: This article mentions domestic abuse of an emotional, physical, and financial nature.

Mel B is a patron and campaigner of Women’s Aid for survivors of domestic abuse

Melanie Janine Brown, more commonly known as Mel B, has opened up about being subjected to financial abuse by her ex-husband, Stephen Belafonte.

The singer and anti-domestic abuse campaigner began earning millions during the 1990s and early 2000s with the Spice Girls, during the height of the band’s popularity.

However, Brown claims that after splitting from Belafonte in 2017, after 10 years of marriage, she was left with next to nothing due to financial abuse, as well as accusing him of emotional and physical abuse, something he has always denied.

What is financial abuse?

What Would You Do defines ‘financial abuse’ as a form of domestic abuse in which money and access to finances are used by an abuser to exert power and control over their partner.

It is a form of coercive control, which is a criminal offense with the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act 2018.

Signs of financial abuse can include:

  • Taking control of the finances that doesn’t give the victim any access to bank accounts and/or funds and controls what the victim spends. This can also include changing login details
  • Not allowing the victim to work or deliberately sabotaging their current employment in a bid to cut off their access to money.
  • Intentionally damaging the victim’s financial savings, credit history, or reputation.
  • Forcing a victim to take out a line of credit, loan, or make transactions in the victim’s name.
  • Pressures a victim to change their will in a way they’re uncomfortable with.
  • Asks for proof of spending.


In a recent interview with BBC, the former Spice Girl has shone a light on financial abuse and the impacts it can have on the victim.

While the Spice Girls reunion in 2019 and the release of her memoir in 2018, Brutally Honesty, helped the singer regain some financial security, much of her profits were spent on legal fees and payments to her ex-husband, Belafonte.

Mel B. Credit: Getty

She told the news outlet that she was forced to move back in with her mum during this period of her life.

“I wasn’t just emotionally and physically abused, there was all the financial abuse too. I didn’t realise that I didn’t have as much money as I thought I had. So I literally had to eat humble pie, live with my mum,” Brown explained.

“My mum was the kind of person that would say, ‘Oh you’ve left him now, you’re fine’. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Obviously any situation is better than being with your abuser, but when you’ve left that kind of abusive situation, it’s like starting all over again. You have to learn to trust people. You have to learn to trust yourself.”

Belafonte repeatedly denied the claims of abuse made against him but they reached a private settlement out of court in 2017, with their divorce finalising the following year.

Part of the settlement saw Brown required to pay her ex-husband $350,000 (€319,847.50), lump sum plus $5,000 (€4,569.22) a month in child support for their daughter Madison.

Last month, she announced on Instagram that after working ‘bloody hard’ and ‘living frugally’ for over five years, she was able to buy her own home.

“I’ve been looking at houses on and off for the last couple of years, knowing I didn’t have the money to afford them,” she told the news outlet.

“But I just put my head down, worked and lived frugally and hence I’ve been able to buy my own house.”

Credit: Getty

Using her experience to help others

Brown was made a patron and campaigner for Women’s Aid in 2018.

Using her experience of domestic abuse, she advocates for people who have survived domestic abuse.

“I bring awareness and I talk about abuse and I talk about what I’ve been through,” she said.

“I’m the voice of all the other survivors out there that don’t have a voice, that can’t be heard, that can’t get their point across – especially when it comes to things like trying to change the justice system and trying to enforce more laws that are more supportive to people that are coming out of an abusive situation.”

Support for anyone affected:

Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900, open seven days a week.

Instant Message Support Service on, open mornings and evenings, seven days a week.

Support for Men: National Male Adviceline 1800 816 588

Support for LGBTQ+ people: National LGBT Helpline 1800 929 539