The artist FKA Twigs (real name Tahliah Barnett) is suing Shia LaBeouf for alleged emotional, physical and mental abuse during their year-long romantic relationship.
The stars started dating after both starring in the film Honey Boy in 2018 and Barnett left LaBeouf in 2019.
Now, she’s spoken out about her experience and the lawsuit to The New York Times, calling the relationship with LaBeouf and corresponding abuse “the worst thing I’ve ever been through in the whole of my life”, and saying that she’s talking out because she’d “like to be able to raise awareness on the tactics that abusers use to control you and take away your agency.”
The lawsuit outlines a number of disturbing instances of alleged abuse LaBeouf levelled at Barnett over the course of their relationship. For example, on Valentine’s Day in 2019, he apparently drove recklessly on the way home from a spa, removing his seatbelt and threatening to crash if Barnett didn’t declare her love for him. On the same Valentine’s trip, LaBeouf also allegedly woke Barnett up one night by choking her.
The lawsuit also states he knowingly infected Barnett with an STI, he would keep track of how many times in a day she kissed him and get angry if he deemed it wasn’t enough, made her sleep naked and would keep a loaded firearm by their bedside, making Barnett unable to go to the bathroom throughout the night for fear he might accidentally shoot her.
In the early days of their relationship, LaBeouf allegedly showered Barnett with “over-the-top displays of affection”, putting on a “charm offensive” in order to gain her trust. After just a few weeks of dating, he convinced her to leave London and move in with him in Los Angeles, something that helped further isolate her from friends and family.
LaBeouf responded to the detailed allegations in an email to the Times, saying that “many of these allegations are not true”. “I’m not in any position to tell anyone how my behaviour made them feel,” he said. “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.”
Barnett shared the NYT article on her Instagram profile, explaining that she wants to shed light on the insidious terrors of coercive control and how it can manifest and escalate into domestic violence. “I never thought something like this would happen to me,” she wrote. “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.”
She continued, “The statistics on domestically abusive and intimate partner violence relationships are shocking and 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.”
In recent years the issue of coercive control has slowly come to the fore of discussions around domestic violence, with Britain and Scotland having both criminalised it in 2015 and 2019 respectively. More recently, the New South Wales government announced in October that it would establish a Parliamentary Joint Select Committee to examine coercive control, possible legislative reform and overall policy approach.
The announcement followed Are Media (parent company of marie claire Australia) bringing together a coalition of organisations – White Ribbon, Small Steps for Hannah, Women’s Safety NSW, Queensland Women’s Legal Service and journalist and author of ‘Look What You Made Me Do’, Jess Hill – to call on governments to take immediate steps towards introducing an offence of Coercive Control.
Sign our petition calling on the government to make coercive control a crime and help us change the lives of thousands of women.
If you or anyone you know needs help or advice, contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.