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Real Housewives of New York City's Tinsley Mortimer Opens Up About Escaping a Violent Relationship with Her Ex

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Almost a year after she was arrested for trespassing at her ex’s Palm Beach home, Tinsley Mortimer is ready to tell her side of the story.

In this week’s issue of PEOPLE, the former Manhattan socialite — who has joined the cast of Bravo’s upcoming season of The Real Housewives of New York City — exclusively opens up about her volatile history with ex-boyfriend Alexander “Nico” Fanjul.

By the time of her April 2016 arrest, Mortimer, 41, says she had spent two years covering up a violent relationship with Fanjul, 31, whose family controls an estimated 40 percent of Florida’s sugar industry.

Photograph by Gillian Laub

As PEOPLE previously reported, authorities have been called to the Fanjul home to break up savage fights. After one, on Christmas Day in 2013, Mortimer was hospitalized with head lacerations. In the police report, she stated Fanjul had grabbed her arm, causing her to lose her balance and hit her head.

According to another police report, cops were once called to the residence for an altercation where a neighbor signed a sworn statement that he witnessed Fanjul “tackle” Mortimer and “push her head into the pavement.” Fanjul also claimed Mortimer attacked him: According to the police report, he says Mortimer scratched him, leaving minor lacerations on his chest and back.

Palm Beach Police Department

Palm Beach Police Department

In yet another police report, Fanjul is alleged to have vandalized Mortimer’s car, breaking her windshield while she cowered inside waiting for help. In several cases, both were reported to be intoxicated. (No charges were ever filed in those cases; the trespassing charges against Mortimer were later dropped, and Fanjul declined to comment for this story.)

“I had moments of feeling like I wasn’t going to make it,” Mortimer says now. “I was going to be one of those tragic stories you see on TV.”

Mortimer met Fanjul — whose father, Alex, and uncle Pepe own the parent company of Domino sugar — after moving to Palm Beach in 2012 to be closer to her parents.

“He’s super fun, and we were always laughing,” she says.

  • For more on Tinsley Mortimer, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

But after a year of dating, things began to change. “I started to notice there was this quick switch of anger,” says Mortimer. “It’s honeymoon, then tension, and then it’s explosive.”

She ignored pleas from her parents to leave him and began sneaking around to avoid judgment.

“When it was good, it was so good,” she says. “It was, I love you more than anything. You are the love of my life.”

But Mortimer says the violence escalated until she feared for her life.

“When pillows are over your head, you do everything you can to get out of that,” she says, referring to a June 2014 police report in which Mortimer told officers Fanjul tried to “smother her.” According to the report, Fanjul refused to answer any questions about the incident and asked officers to leave.

I almost felt like I deserved it,” she adds. “He would make me feel like I was the cause.”

Patrick McMullan/Getty Images
Patrick Ecclesine/Bravo

Looking back now, Mortimer says her arrest was the final straw. (She claims she arrived at Fanjul’s home that final time to retrieve her purse. An argument escalated, and, unaware there was a trespassing warning on her, Mortimer called police, who then arrested her.)

“It took the arrest, the mug shot — all those painful things for me to recognize his lack of character,” says Mortimer, who went into therapy. “I will never put myself in that situation again.”

“It was horrible,” she adds. “Being arrested was the only thing that broke me out of the cycle of violence. Now I’m done.”

The Real Housewives of New York City season 9 premieres April 5 at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo.

—With AURELIE CORINTHIOS