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FKA twigs sues Shia LaBeouf, accusing actor of sexual battery, assault, and emotional distress

‘I’d like to be able to raise awareness on the tactics that abusers use to control you and take away your agency,’ the singer said in an interview with The New York Times

Rachel Brodsky
Los Angeles
Friday 11 December 2020 17:29
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FKA twigs sues Shia LaBeouf

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Singer FKA twigs, born Tahliah Debrett Barnett, has filed a lawsuit against Shia LaBeouf, accusing the actor of “relentless abuse”, including sexual battery, assault, and infliction of emotional distress.

The New York Times broke the story on Friday (11 December). The lawsuit states that Mr LaBeouf also “knowingly gave Ms Barnett a sexually transmitted disease".

According to The New York Times, the lawsuit lays out a number of troubling examples of abuse, including one instance just after Valentine's Day 2019 when Ms Barnett and Mr LaBeouf were driving together toward Los Angeles when the actor removed his seatbelt and threatened to crash the car unless she said that she loved him.

Begging to be let out of the car, Ms Barnett jumped out at a gas station and took her bags out of the trunk. Mr LaBeouf followed and allegedly assaulted her, throwing her against the car and screaming at her.

Another time, on the same trip, Mr LaBeouf allegedly woke her up in the middle of the night choking her.

The relationship lasted just under a year, but the gas station incident, the lawsuit states, is part of a larger pattern of abuse by Mr LaBeouf.

Ms Barnett told The New York Times that her aim in coming forward was to show how even outwardly successful artists with a strong support network can fall victim to a cycle of abuse.

“I’d like to be able to raise awareness on the tactics that abusers use to control you and take away your agency," she said in an interview.

In an email sent on Thursday (10 December), Mr LaBeouf responded to the issues raised by Ms Barnett.

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"I’m not in any position to tell anyone how my behavior made them feel," he wrote to The New York Times. "I have no excuses for my alcoholism or aggression, only rationalisations. I have been abusive to myself and everyone around me for years. I have a history of hurting the people closest to me. I’m ashamed of that history and am sorry to those I hurt. There is nothing else I can really say."

Mr LaBeouf and his representative have not commented on the lawsuit at this time.

The lawsuit also lays out previous examples of abuse, including allegations from another ex-girlfriend of Mr LaBeouf's, stylist Karolyn Pho, who alleges that the actor had drunkenly pinned her to a bed and head-butted her, to the point where she bled.

"So much goes into breaking down a man or woman to make them OK with a certain kind of treatment," she told The New York Times.

In response to the additional allegations, Mr LaBeouf wrote in a separate email that "many of these allegations are not true." He did, however, owe these women "the opportunity to air their statements publicly and accept accountability for those things I have done".

He also pointed out that he continues to be "a sober member of a 12-step program" and is in therapy. "I am not cured of my PTSD and alcoholism," he said, "but I am committed to doing what I need to do to recover, and I will forever be sorry to the people that I may have harmed along the way.”

The suit continues, laying out more examples of emotional abuse and controlling behavior from Mr LaBeouf. Both Ms Barnett and Ms Pho described how LaBeouf did not like it if they spoke to or looked at male waiters. Ms Barnett told The New York Times how she learned to keep her eyes down when men addressed her.

She also described how Mr LaBeouf isolated her from her inner-circle and convinced her to stay with him in Los Angeles, even though she was based in London. The lawsuit also states that Mr LaBeouf allegedly kept a loaded firearm by the bed, and that Ms Barnett, who was not permitted to wear clothing to bed, would feel frightened to use the bathroom at night, for fear of Mr LaBeouf mistaking her for an intruder and shooting her.

"The whole time I was with him, I could have bought myself a business-flight plane ticket back to my four-story townhouse in Hackney," she said.

"He brought me so low, below myself, that the idea of leaving him and having to work myself back up just seemed impossible."

Ms Barnett's lawsuit states that she plans to donate a significant portion of any monetary damages to domestic-violence charities.

Ultimately, Ms Barnett felt it was vital that she share her story to shed light on how common her experience is, regardless of wealth or status.

“What I went through with Shia was the worst thing I’ve ever been through in the whole of my life," she said. “I don’t think people would ever think that it would happen to me. But I think that’s the thing. It can happen to anybody."

Later on Friday (11 December), FKA twigs tweeted out a response to the attention her story was receiving.

"It may be surprising to you to learn that I was in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship," she wrote. "it was hard for me to process too, during and after I never thought something like this would happen to me.

Which is why I have decided it’s important for me to talk about it and try to help people understand that when you are under the coercive control of an abuser or in an intimate partner violent relationship, leaving doesn’t feel like a safe or achievable option.

I hope that by sharing my experience I can truly help others feel like they are not alone and shed some light on how those who are worried somebody they care about may be in an abusive relationship can help because I understand it can be confusing and hard to know what to do."

She continued, noting how "the statistics on domestically abusive and intimate partner violence relationships are shocking."

"During Covid I have been really anxious because I know many victims will have been literally trapped with their abusers with no relief or way to get out.

My second-worst nightmare is being forced to share with the world that I am a survivor of domestic violence. My first worst nightmare is not telling anyone and knowing that I could have helped even just one person by sharing my story."

FKA twigs wrapped up her statement by tagging "charities and helplines that I recommend donating to and calling if you or somebody you know needs support".

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