Exclusive: Mel B launches domestic abuse poster campaign in home city of Leeds

This video contains distressing images
  • Video report by Emma Wilkinson - this video contains scenes from a film that reconstructs a domestic abuse incident which some may find distressing.

Mel B has launched a campaign to get posters put up on toilet doors, to help people spot the signs of an abusive relationship.

ITV Calendar joined the former Spice Girls member as she went out in her home city of Leeds to distribute the new posters and encourage businesses to put them up in toilet cubicles.

She also met with students from Leeds City College to discuss the new poster and how it might help young people identify unhealthy relationships. 

Mel said: "It doesn't just happen overnight, the signs are very subtle, it happens very slowly and before you know it that person is taking control of your phone or commenting on what you wear or when you see your friends or how they don't think your friends are good for you so you don't end up seeing your friends too much.

"And that escalates into something that is completely isolating and completely abusive.

"From a young age, we're not taught these kinds of things, I know that if there was something like this in my school, or if the teachers spoke about it in an educational way then I would've been really aware of what a coercive, abusive relationship looks like."

Mel met with students at Leeds City College to discuss the campaign. Credit: ITV News

In her book 'Brutally Honest', Mel B says her marriage to ex-husband Stephen Belafonte was emotionally abusive towards her.

ITV Calendar approached his representatives for comment but did not receive a response. However, he has repeatedly denied the allegations. 

She added: "I love my work, I love performing with the Spice Girls and singing all those amazing songs.

"But then at home, I was just a piece of nothing, I was so humiliated every single day, talked down to and that just became quite normal and I was just a tiny little person, no confidence, no nothing because it had just been slowly chipped away at, without me even realising to start off with."

Mel is now a patron of Women's Aid and recently featured in a short film in support of the charity. 'Love Should Not Hurt' was directed by British composer Fabio D'Andrea and was created to raise awareness of the impact of domestic abuse.

Now she is working with Women's Aid again to promote the new poster, which she hopes will raise awareness and be another tool to help people who are living in unhealthy and abusive relationships. 

The posters will be placed in toilets around the city. Credit: ITV News

According to the ONS, an estimated 1.6 million women experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales last year and one woman every four days on average is killed by a current or former partner.

The idea for this poster was inspired by a Health and Social Care student, who reached out to the singer and asked her to be a case study for a module on her degree course. 

The student, who has to remain anonymous for her own safety, says she spent time in hospital during an abusive relationship and read Mel B's book while recovering on the ward.

She says it prompted her to leave her partner, change her life and enrol at university. 

Mel B said: "We did a Q&A as part of her university presentation, and one of the questions she asked me was 'what is the next step for you?' and I said I'd like to get those signs of an abusive relationship - the ones that feature in my book - out there for more people to see.

"And then after our conversation, she just took it upon herself to ask her local pub to put a poster up in the toilets and I thought, 'I should do that too, we should do it together'."

She continued: "If this is up in the toilet, this is the only place that no one can get to you, your abuser who's waiting in the car of waiting in the pub or restaurant can't get to that space so you can sit in the bathroom and right there in front of you will be the key signs to help you identify if you're living in that kind of abusive, controlling, coercive relationship and you can get help."

Melanie's daughter Angel helped design the poster, which is now available to download from the Women's Aid website.  

Where to get help if you are a victim of domestic abuse

  • Women's Aid's live chat service is open Mon-Fri 10am-4pm and Sat-Sun 10am-12pm.

  • Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline offers free support 24 hours a day to victims and those who are worried about their loved ones.

  • Safe Spaces are available in pharmacies across the UK, including Boots, Superdrug and Morrisons. Once inside, you will find specialist domestic abuse support information. Some Safe Spaces will respond to the Ask for ANI codeword.

  • NSPCC helpline offers advice and support for anyone with concerns about a child.