The singer FKA twigs has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles against Shia LaBeouf, accusing her former boyfriend of sexual battery, assault and the infliction of emotional distress – according to a report in the New York Times.
The pair dated for just under a year between 2018 and 2019, in a relationship that FKA twigs describes as “a living nightmare” with “relentless abuse”.
“I’d like to be able to raise awareness on the tactics that abusers use to control you and take away your agency,” FKA twigs, whose real name is Tahliah Debrett Barnett, told the Times.
In one incident cited in the lawsuit, LaBeouf allegedly assaulted his then-girlfriend at a gas station near Los Angeles. She says that he threw her against the car while screaming in her face. Other people were present at the time, but they did not step in to help her.
“I just thought to myself, no one is ever going to believe me,” Barnett says now. “I’m unconventional. And I’m a person of colour who is a female.”
According to the paperwork filed, LaBeouf is said to have grabbed or squeezed Barnett to the point of bruising on a number of occasions. Barnett’s housekeeper is among the witnesses listed to such incidents.
LaBeouf is also accused of knowingly giving the singer a sexually transmitted disease.
Barnett tells the Times that she did not report the alleged abuse at the time: at first out of a misguided concern for LaBeouf’s career – and later because she felt no one would believe her. She also became caught in a typical abuse cycle where her confidence was so low, she could not see a way out.
“He brought me so low, below myself, that the idea of leaving him and having to work myself back up just seemed impossible,” she says.
LaBeouf has a history of volatile behaviour, including complaints from other girlfriends that are cited in Barnett’s lawsuit filed this week.
Speaking to the Times, the Transformers actor did not comment directly on the matter. But, while stating that “many of these allegations are not true” in regard to his general conduct to past girlfriends, he also said in an email to the paper that “I have been abusive to myself and everyone around me for years”.
“I have no excuses for my alcoholism or aggression, only rationalizations,” the actor wrote, adding that he was sober but not yet cured of alcoholism.
“I have a history of hurting the people closest to me,” he wrote. “I’m ashamed of that history and am sorry to those I hurt. There is nothing else I can really say.”
Barnett first met LaBeouf on the set of his semi-autobiographical film Honey Boy in 2018. They started dating soon after, and Barnett became increasingly withdrawn as a pattern of alleged abuse escalated. “I could speak to her but I couldn’t reach her,” her manager, Michael Stirton, says of the singer at that time.
The singer eventually left LaBeouf, after several “dangerous” failed attempts.
The experience Barnett describes chimes with the horribly insidious way in which domestic abuse works. As control builds up in a plethora of dangerous ways, the victim begins to doubt themselves and leaving seems impossible – even when, not so long ago, they likely thought that nothing like that would ever happen to them.
Almost one in three women aged 16-59 will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime in the UK, according to domestic violence charity Refuge. Two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales alone.
Barnett plans to donate a significant portion of any damages awarded from her suit to domestic violence charities. Head to the New York Times to read the story in full.