This week, Britney Spears publicly explained the horrific treatment she’s endured for the last decade. And there may be more to come.
This week, the world digested the sordid details of Britney Spears’ conservatorship – a legally binding order that has placed her entire life under her father’s jurisdiction. In a 24-minute statement, Britney detailed the last 13 years, where she’s been unable to make decisions regarding her health, employment, and even whether she can paint her kitchen. After vowing to sue her family, the singer stated that she has “been in denial. I’ve been in shock. I am traumatised…I just want my life back.”
It started in July 2007 with her divorce from Kevin Federline. In January 2008, Britney refused to hand back the children (there were frequent disagreements about child access) and locked herself in the bathroom. The police were ultimately called, and Britney’s involuntary hospitalisations began.
Famously, Britney shaved her head, went swimming with her clothes on, and allegedly spoke in a British accent. Yet, these actions were deemed adequate for a judge to grant her father, Jamie, a temporary conservatorship.
By October, the conservatorship was made permanent. Britney’s every decision now had to be approved by her father and an attorney, who also managed all of her finances.
In the 2008 MTV documentary, Britney: For the Record, the singer compared her life to jail: “Even when you go to jail, there’s always the time you know that you’re gonna get out.” And when the interviewer asks if she thinks her life is out of control, she says, “I don’t feel like it’s out of control; I think it’s too in control. There’s no excitement. There’s no passion. It’s just, like, Groundhog Day every day…I’m kinda stuck in this place and it’s like, how do you deal? And you just cope. That’s what I do. I just cope with it. Every day.”
As it stands, conservatorships for people who are not elderly and showing dementia are rare. Recently, it was rumoured that Jamie Spears had implied Britney had dementia, in order to maintain the agreement. Britney was deemed not capable of choosing her own legal representation, despite having a net worth of $60 million.
Britney’s estate has paid her father well for this, as well as seemingly infinite medical and other staff that work for the conservatorship. She is, in effect, paying for her own imprisonment, a situation which Britney defines as “sex trafficking”.
From 2013 to 2017, Britney worked a residency show in Las Vegas, performing for hundreds of nights, with no control at all over her income. She claims that she was made to work one night with a 40-degree fever. It was around this time that Britney started lobbying for the conservatorship to end.
In 2016, as court documents show, an investigator said: “She articulated she feels the conservatorship has become an oppressive and controlling tool against her.”
By 2019, she quit performing, citing her father’s health as the motivating factor. However, it was soon revealed that she was withdrawing in protest, with Britney saying she’d never work again while her father was in control.
In her statement, Spears (who will be 40 this year) said that her father’s regulations mean that she has to ask for the right to marry, have a baby, and drive in her boyfriend’s car without permission. Britney also illustrated that she isn’t even legally allowed to remove her own IUD contraceptive and that she was taken off her medication and placed on Lithium.
“Lithium is a very, very strong and completely different medication compared to what I was used to…you can go mentally impaired if you take too much, if you stay on it longer than five months. But he put me on that, and I felt drunk,” Spears said.
According to Spears’ testimony, six nurses were sent to her house to “monitor” her behavior and wouldn’t let her leave the house for a month. “Not only did my family not do a goddamn thing, my dad was all for it…anything that happened to me had to be approved by my dad,” she said.
This tangible support appears to have buoyed her to speak loudly about what was described as a horror movie of a life. Her testimony in court on Wednesday was lucid and clear. There seems no justifiable reason for her not to enjoy her life.
Inspired by her censorship, devoted fans started the #FreeBritney movement in 2019. The movement was transformed by a podcast that released a voicemail from an anonymous source that alleged Britney was being involuntarily held in a mental health facility after refusing to take her medication. The source (who claimed to be a member of Britney’s legal team), also said that the conservatorship was supposed to end in 2009. Marches and protests followed, with fans decoding her social media posts for hidden messages.
Documentaries about the exploitation of Britney Spears’s money and personal life by those closest to her (such as The New York Times piece, ‘Framing Britney Spears’) provide a new level of voyeurism for those horrified by her exploitation.
Yet, this tangible support appears to have buoyed her to speak loudly about what was described as a horror movie of a life. Her testimony in court on Wednesday was lucid and clear. There seems no justifiable reason for her not to enjoy her life.
Yet, if the conservatorship unravels, the details are likely to be darker and more sinister than ever realised. As outlined in her statement, Spears was forced into therapy with Dr Timothy Benson, who allegedly “abused” her. Indeed, after hearing about his death in 2019, she got on her “knees and thanked God.”
Despite her bravery, I fear this may not be the end. On Wednesday, she said to Los Angeles probate judge Brenda Penny, “I deserve to have a life. I’ve worked my whole life. I deserve to have a two to three-year break and just, you know, do what I want to do. But I do feel like there is a crutch here. And I feel open and I’m okay to talk to you today about it. But I wish I could stay with you on the phone forever, because when I get off the phone with you, all of a sudden, all I hear all these no’s.”
Today, the same court ruled against her. Per Variety, “New court documents that were filed by the Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday show that the judge has denied a months-old request by Spears’ attorney, Samuel Ingham III, to remove her father, Jamie Spears, as her sole conservator.”
“The conservator’s request to suspend James P. Spears immediately upon the appointment of Bessemer Trust Company of California as sole conservator of estate is denied without prejudice,” the court documents stated.
As the publication noted, “the judge’s denial is nothing new. Samuel Ingham III had filed the request to remove Spears’ father back in November 2020, stating that his client was ‘afraid of her father’ and would refuse to perform again, if her father continued to be in charge of her career. At that time, Judge Brenda Penny declined to suspend her father from the conservatorship, though she did not rule out future petitions for his removal or suspension. Also, at that time, the judge appointed financial company Bessemer Trust as a co-conservator.
“Today’s paperwork was solely intended for the judge to approve Bessemer Trust as the co-conservator, but also reiterates the judge’s decision to not remove the elder Spears from the pop star’s conservatorship.
“However, it’s significant that the document was signed by Judge Penny on June 30 — after the singer’s explosive testimony where she told the judge that her conservatorship was ‘abusive.'”