Bethenny Frankel and Jason Hoppy are at odds over custody of their 8-year-old daughter Bryn

By Aurelie Corinthios Maggie Parker
March 06, 2019 02:38 PM

Bethenny Frankel testified Wednesday about alleged abuse by ex Jason Hoppy.

The Real Housewives of New York City star, 48, got emotional as she took the witness stand on the third day of her and Hoppy’s custody trial over their 8-year-old daughter Bryn.

Frankel said she feared for her safety while sharing an apartment with Hoppy after they had separated — and even had a padlock installed on her bedroom door for protection. (The two separated in December 2012, and Frankel filed for divorce a month later.)

“I had a padlock on my room to protect myself,” she said. (Hoppy’s lawyer had no comment when asked about the lock by PEOPLE.)

She compared their home together to “a torture chamber.”

“Before a judge gave us our own designated days, there was no structure. It was outright mayhem. Jason would lay in the marital bed and not get out and stare at me. … He would blast the remote as high as possible. …He locked [Frankel’s dog] Cookie in the room multiple times. He locked Cookie in a storage unit until late in the night without telling me or my assistant Jackie. He would leave negative press about me on the counter and I would see it and throw it in the garbage, and the next day … he would take it out of garbage and put it there,” she said.

She also alleged that Hoppy would help Bryn get dressed and tell her, “I know you don’t want to go with Mommy.”

Though they reached a financial settlement in their contentious divorce in July 2016, they’ve been embroiled in messy court proceedings ever since, with Frankel now seeking primary custody and full decision-making power over Bryn. They currently share custody and decision-making power. (PEOPLE has learned that their divorce is still not finalized, and so the parties aren’t yet officially divorced.)

Raymond Hall/GC Images; Turgeon-Steffman / Splash

In court Wednesday, Frankel said she signed the initial joint custody agreement because her hopes “were that we had really crossed over the massive gauntlets that everyone told me would be the big hurdles that were causing such strife and abuse, and that we would get to a better place to amicably co-parent.”

“We had been in a war, and I wanted to stop the bleeding. I had been told that a custody battle is like being on a dock and watching your child drown in front of you and not being able to help them,” she continued, starting to cry. “I wanted to get on with it.”

Frankel said that after agreeing to joint custody, the former couple began seeing a parenting coordinator and the “intensity of the conflict became greater.”

“The conflict was day in, day out torture,” she said. “Emotional, mental, phone, FaceTime, email, being followed, being harassed, being verbally attacked, an all-out assault in every possible way. On my character, mental state, family, upbringing, parenting, looks, age, career, life.”

Frankel said she tried different approaches in responding to Hoppy, 48, including delayed correspondence, temporarily blocking calls and limited her responses to “the fewest amount of words so as to not provoke my ex.”

“I tried to use an arsenal of tools to protect myself to reduce the damage for myself and Bryn,” she said. “I tried to keep Bryn away from it. I was very emotionally upset, I tried to really separate her from that. I tried to grieve privately.”

“I felt hopeless and helpless. I had no way out,” she continued. “I knew I was being abused.”

She said things escalated when she hired a criminal attorney.

“Face-to-face contact was threatening and verbally assaulting. They were the more regular ones that would occur at the dentist or doctor’s appointments where we would both have to go to these appointments because Jason didn’t want to alternate, he wanted to be at all of them,” she said. “Jason would say, ‘You are so desperate and pathetic.’ He would say I looked ugly and old. He would laugh and whistle in my presence and make negative comments to me. There was a more threatening event at her school yard.”

That 2017 incident — in which Frankel alleges Hoppy taunted her and late boyfriend Dennis Shields in front of Bryn’s classmates and their parents — is what led her to contact police and accuse him of stalking and harassing her. Hoppy was arrested and an order of protection was put in place. (He agreed to a plea deal in the case.)

RELATED: Bethenny Frankel’s On-Off Boyfriend Dennis Shields Found Dead of Suspected Overdose

“My daughter was steps away, and he couldn’t control his anger. I didn’t know what he was capable of and I was afraid for my safety. So were the people I work with,” she said.

In court earlier this week, Hoppy’s attorney Robert Wallack said that he wouldn’t expand on Frankel’s “provocations, inflexibility” and “need for attention,” but alleged that the mother of one and her team want the court to believe the former couple is so hostile with each other that they need to throw out the old custody agreement.

During his cross-examination by Frankel’s attorney on Monday, Hoppy said he thinks he and Frankel are “both good parents” and that he just wants to “move on.”

“There are probably some statements we both made to each other that we regret,” he said. “I take full responsibility for the comments I have made.”

He also admitted that the way he was contacting and communicating with Frankel was “wrong and inappropriate,” calling his emails and texts a “horrible approach.”

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