Spice Girl Mel B has joined forces with Women’s Aid in a campaign to keep children safe from domestic abuse.

Melanie Brown, who fled her own ten-year abusive relationship is pushing for judges to receive mandatory domestic abuse training.

“Judges need to wake up and learn about domestic abuse – the family courts can be as bad as the abusers,” said the pop star, from Leeds, West Yorkshire

Melanie, 48, is also calling on courts not to assume contact with children should be granted to an ex-partner if the relationship has been an abusive one.

She said: “I’m a Spice Girl and a TV presenter, but I am also a Women’s Aid patron and a survivor of an abusive marriage. I want to use my voice to make a change on behalf of the many whose voices are not listened to. I will shout from every platform I have until survivors of abuse are safe.”

The new petition is calling on the government to act on the recommendations of the 2020 Harm Panel Report, which called for significant changes in the way child victims domestic abuse are handled.

The report said victims believe there is a lack of understanding in the Family Court system which leads to minimisation of the abuse and re-traumatisation.

Despite being published nearly four years ago, some changes have not yet been implemented and are desperately needed.

Appearing in the Family Court can be an incredibly difficult challenge, with many domestic abuse survivors explaining they feel like they are the ones who are on trial and are scared to even sit in court.

Teresa Parker, Head of Media Brand & Relationships at Women’s Aid, said: “Survivors don’t feel safe within the system, don’t feel represented, and feel like this process is an extension of the abuse.”

“There’s a huge negative effect on a survivor’s mental health when they tell you: ‘‘I’ve done, on paper, all the right things, yet I’m being blamed, I’ve been the victim but it’s all been spun around and I am exhausted’.”

Teresa Parker, Head of Media Brand & Relationships at Women’s Aid. Credit: Women’s Aid

Women’s Aid, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, believe the problem starts with judges and the training, or lack of, which they receive. This can stem from the background which they come from or simply naivety to what victims and survivors experience each day.

Ms Parker said the stigma about what domestic abuse is and what we think a victim looks like needs to change.

“Victims still say to us: ‘I know it’s not a good relationship, but he hasn’t hit me’,” said Ms Parker. “When some judges themselves don’t understand coercive control, it is so deeply unhealthy in terms of justice.”

Between March 2022 and March 2023, only 6.8% of all domestic abuse related crimes brought to court ended in a charge of summons, according to the Office for National Statistics. Women’s Aid explained this leads to many women believing there isn’t any point in taking their case to court.

Ms Parker added: “When you look at experiences in the family courts and at low conviction rates in criminal courts, survivors often think is it worth doing it?

“One thing that has been effective with our work with patrons and ambassadors, including Mel B; she is the opposite of what many people think a survivor of domestic abuse is. By showing different people, with very different personalities – including some of the most absolutely, amazingly, outwardly strong women – can experience abuse and you don’t experience abuse because you’re almost like a victim by nature. I think that by busting those myths, and the work we’re doing right now with Mel, with you openly says: ‘I’m Scary Spice. If this can happen to me, literally, it can happen to anybody.’ It cuts through that conversation.

“You think of “Little Mo” Mitchell from EastEnders, you think of somebody who’s meek, so that storytelling is so powerful.”

Women’s Aid has worked closely with Claire Throssell, a domestic abuse survivor, from Penistone, Sheffield. Her two sons, Jack, 12, and nine-year-old Paul, were killed by their father in 2014, in a deliberate house fire at the family home after a judge allowed her unsupervised contact visits in his home.

Following the tragic loss of her children, Claire became an ambassador for Women’s Aid and is backing the campaign for mandatory training for judges.

More information about the petition can be found here.