Ex-Spice Girl Mel B tells Tory conference of need for domestic abuse reforms

<span>Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA</span>
Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

The former Spice Girl Melanie Brown has told an event at the Conservative party conference of her fears that the “massive issue of domestic abuse” will slip down the agenda during “these times of absolute economic chaos”.

The singer, known to millions as Mel B or “Scary Spice”, was speaking at a meeting organised by the Sun and Women’s Aid, which she became a patron of in 2018 after leaving what she described as an abusive relationship.

“We need to reform everything, the courts, the police, even GPs, even people in your work environment, HR, you need to have a safe place where you can go without any shame and know the warning signs,” said Brown, who was made an MBE for services to charitable causes and vulnerable women.

Research from Women’s Aid found that 40% of adults believe that people who carry out domestic violence against women were enabled by sexism, compared to some 60% who felt the opposite and regarded it – in the words of the charity’s CEO – as “bad people doing bad things”.

Related: Mel B on domestic abuse, trauma and recovery: ‘In my mind there was no way out’

“What we have is a real gap in people’s understanding of how prevalent this crime is,” said Farah Nazeer, chief executive of Women’s Aid.

“We are not ready yet as a society to support women and that is the fundamental question. This is due to sexism and misogyny that underpins all those systems. They are not created to recognise the harm that women face on a daily basis,” she added, echoing Brown’s criticism of a range of institutions

Thanking Brown for her support, Nazeer went on to say that the problem was so widespread that there would be perpetrators in the room they were speaking in, as well as women who are experiencing abuse.

The new Women’s Aid research also found there was a 15% drop in how seriously people regarded an instance of domestic abuse, such as if a man slaps his wife, if the perpetrator apologised afterwards.

Brown told the fringe event at the Tory party conference in Birmingham: “As a Spice Girl I am the embodiment of girl power and for 10 years I was completely powerless.

“I’m probably the last person you would expect at a Tory conference. I can’t quite believe I’m here myself.

“In these times of absolute economic chaos, with the massive issue of domestic abuse I don’t want it to slip down the agenda.”

In her 2018 memoir Brutally Honest, Brown documented the horror of her day-to-day existence – alleging physical, sexual, verbal and financial abuse during the time when she was living in Los Angeles and married to the US film producer Stephen Belafonte, claims which he has denied.