The artist accuses the actor of sexual violence, assault, and infliction of emotional distress in a complaint filed in Los Angeles.
FKA twigs was in a car driving toward Los Angeles just after Valentine’s Day in 2019. Shia LaBeouf, her boyfriend, was behind the wheel. She claimed in a complaint filed on Friday that he was driving dangerously, removing his seatbelt and threatening to crash until she confessed her love for him.
Mr. LaBeouf, the star of “Transformers,” had shouted at FKA twigs throughout the vacation, including waking her up in the middle of the night and choking her, according to the lawsuit. She claimed he pulled over at a gas station after she asked to be let out of the car, and she removed her belongings from the trunk. According to the lawsuit, Mr. LaBeouf pursued her and assaulted her, slamming her against the car while shouting in her face. He then dragged her back into the vehicle.
The gas station incident is at the center of a complaint alleging that Mr. LaBeouf, 34, mistreated FKA Twigs physically, emotionally, and mentally during the course of a year-and-a-half relationship. In an interview, she stated that her motivation for coming out was to illustrate how even a critically recognized artist with money, a home, and a strong network of supporters might become trapped in such a cycle.
FKA twigs, 32, born Tahliah Debrett Barnett, said, “I’d like to be able to raise awareness on the strategies that abusers use to control you and take away your agency.”
Mr. LaBeouf reacted in an email to Ms. Barnett’s concerns, as well as those of a second former girlfriend who has accused him of abusive behavior, on Thursday.
In an email to The New York Times, he stated, “I’m not in any position to tell someone how my actions made them feel.” “I just have rationalizations for my drunkenness and aggressiveness.” For years, I’ve been abusive to myself and those around me. I have a history of inflicting pain on those who are closest to me. I’m embarrassed of my past and apologize to everyone I’ve wronged. “I’m not sure what else I can say.”
Mr. LaBeouf knowingly gave Ms. Barnett a sexually transmitted disease, according to the case, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. He is accused of “relentless abuse,” including sexual battery, assault, and infliction of emotional distress, according to the complaint.
A request for comment on the case was not immediately returned by Mr. LaBeouf or his representative.
Mr. LaBeouf’s former girlfriend Karolyn Pho described comparable tumultuous experiences to The New York Times, some of which are also detailed in the case. According to the lawsuit, he once pinned her to a bed and head-butted her until she bled. She began to question whether he was abusing her after that. In an interview, she remarked, “So much goes into tearing down a guy or woman to make them OK with a certain kind of treatment.”
In response to a comprehensive explanation of the charges made against him by the women in interviews and later in the lawsuit, Mr. LaBeouf stated in a separate email that “many of these allegations are not accurate.” However, he went on to say that he owed the women “the opportunity to air their claims publicly and accept culpability for those things I’ve done.”
He also stated that he was in therapy and “a sober member of a 12-step program.” He wrote, “I am not healed of my PTSD and alcoholism, but I am determined to doing what I need to do to rehabilitate, and I will forever be sorry to the people that I may have damaged along the road.”
Mr. LaBeouf has a track of of erratic behavior. According to newspaper accounts and public records, he has been arrested multiple times on accusations that have been dismissed, including assault and disorderly conduct. Strangers caught him arguing with his then-girlfriend, actress Mia Goth, in 2015, and told her, “This is the kind of behavior that makes a person abusive.” According to the video, after the men who were filming Mr. LaBeouf provided him a ride, he informed them, “If I had stayed there, I would’ve killed her.”
Mr. LaBeouf would squeeze or grasp Ms. Barnett to the point of bruising, according to Ms. Barnett. But she didn’t go to the cops, she claimed, initially out of a false fear of jeopardizing his job, and then because she believed her story would be dismissed and fruitless.
Though many states have laws that treat gender-based, sexual, or domestic violence as a civil rights violation, tort suits like the one Ms. Barnett is pursuing, with a harrowing account of painful moments, are relatively rare; most often, allegations arise during divorce or custody proceedings, or when seeking protective orders. However, since the #MeToo movement, there has been a minor increase in civil claims, as more attention has been paid to the complicated nature of abuse, according to Julie Goldscheid, a law professor at CUNY Law School who specializes in gender violence and civil rights.
According to the National Organization for Women, three women die every day at the hands of their abusers. According to law enforcement experts, the pandemic has compounded risky situations by requiring partners to stay in close quarters without interruption, and hotlines around the world have recorded a surge in pleas for assistance.
Ms. Barnett tells how she met Mr. LaBeouf in 2018 when she was cast in his partly autobiographical film “Honey Boy,” and how they began dating after the film completed. His “over-the-top shows of devotion” helped earn her trust in the early days of their relationship, she claims in the lawsuit.
In an abusive relationship, there is typically a “honeymoon phase,” as some specialists refer to it, that creates connection and establishes a baseline for how good the romance can be. It is a potent enticement; while brief moments of happiness may exist, they are accompanied by ever controlling demands and unachievable standards of behavior.
Mr. LaBeouf did not like it when Ms. Barnett and Ms. Pho spoke to or stared at male servers, according to the lawsuit; in an interview, Ms. Barnett said she learned to keep her eyes down when males spoke to her. Mr. LaBeouf had rules about how many times she had to kiss and touch him every day, according to the claim, which he enforced with frequent yelling and criticizing.
Mr. LaBeouf persuaded Ms. Barnett to stay in Los Angeles with him rather than return to London, where she and her professional circle resided, she said. She claimed it was a step toward her solitude. And he would frequently claim that her creative team was exploiting her, a message that made her distrust them.
However, she admitted that living with him had become frightening. According to the lawsuit, he kept a loaded weapon beside the bed, and she was afraid to use the bathroom at night for fear of him mistaking her for an intruder and shooting her. He wouldn’t let her wear clothes to bed, and he’d turn a minor argument — about an artist she liked but he didn’t, for example — into an all-night brawl, depriving her of sleep, according to the lawsuit.
The incident occurred as she was finishing “Magdalene,” her most critically acclaimed record. Ms. Barnett claimed she was stuck in a rut, unable to fulfill her professional obligations and perplexing her friends and coworkers. Michael Stirton, Twigs’ longtime manager, said, “Twigs is always the driving force behind her career – always a step ahead of everyone else.” “She had undergone a significant transformation in her demeanor and temperament.” Mr. Stirton stated as Ms. Barnett walked away that the album’s release had been postponed several times and that a tour had been rescheduled at great expense. He said, “I could talk to her.” “However, I was unable to contact her.”
Ms. Barnett said she felt as though her safety nets were fraying as she became more isolated. She claimed that the gas station event occurred in broad daylight, and that no one came to her aid; an early attempt to inform a colleague was dismissed. In an interview, she remarked, “I just thought to myself, no one is ever going to believe me.” “I’m a little different. “I’m a woman of color who is also a person of color.”
She gradually began to plan her leave with the help of a therapist. Mr. LaBeouf showed up unannounced and scared her while she was packing to leave in spring 2019, according to a sworn statement from a witness, her housekeeper, in the lawsuit. When Ms. Barnett refused to leave with him, he “violently seized” her, scooped her up, and locked her in another room, where he raged at her, according to the statement.
According to the lawsuit, escaping him became “both difficult and dangerous.” Even as her resolve grew, she felt overwhelmed, she told her therapist in an email obtained by The New York Times. Ms. Barnett said in an interview that despite having the resources, it took her numerous efforts to get out. It wasn’t until later that she realized how broken she’d become.
“I could have bought myself a business-class aircraft ticket back to my four-story townhouse in Hackney” in London during her time with him, she said. Despite this, she did not. “He brought me so low, so much below myself,” she explained, “that the prospect of leaving him and having to work my way back up seemed unfathomable.”
Ms. Barnett stated in her lawsuit that she intends to donate a substantial amount of any monetary damages to domestic-violence charity. In an interview, she remarked, “It was actually incredibly expensive, and a big endeavor of time and resources to get out.”
She claims that her predicament is special because of her rank. But she felt compelled to tell her tale since it was so frequent.
“What I went through with Shia was the worst experience I’ve ever had in my whole life,” she stated. “I don’t think anyone ever imagined that would happen to me.” But I believe that is the issue. Anyone can be affected.”