Tahliah Debrett Barnett, the musician known to her fans as FKA twigs, has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court complaining of “relentless” physical, mental, and emotional abuse and sexual battery inflicted on her by former romantic partner Shia LaBeouf. She says that going forward with a lawsuit is an attempt to put a spotlight on the threat of domestic violence–and how it can touch anyone, no matter their wealth or celebrity status.
“I’d like to be able to raise awareness on the tactics that abusers use to control you and take away your agency,” she told The New York Times. “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. He brought me so low, below myself, that the idea of leaving him and having to work myself back up just seemed impossible.”
In the complaint, Barnett details multiple specific allegations of abuse by LaBeouf during their relationship, which lasted nearly a year, including throwing her into a car, choking her while she slept, and threatening to crash a car with both of them inside unless she told him she loved him. The suit states that LaBeouf knowingly passed a sexually transmitted infection to Barnett, and that he inflicted emotional distress on her.
Barnett says she met LaBeouf in 2018, when she was cast in Honey Boy, a film he wrote, largely based on his own troubled childhood. She describes an initially happy, even “over-the-top” romantic relationship, which soon became isolating and controlling. She alleges LaBeouf convinced her to stay in Los Angeles rather than return to her home and support network in London, and that he became jealous if men, even restaurant servers, spoke directly to her—a behavior that another former partner of LaBeouf, Karolyn Pho, says she also experienced.
Even when he caused visible bruises or other injuries, she says, she did not approach police. At the time, Barnett recalls, she felt worried about hurting LaBeouf’s standing in Hollywood, and also worried that her allegations would be dismissed.
“I’m not in any position to tell anyone how my behavior made them feel,” LaBeouf responded to the Times. “I have no excuses for my alcoholism or aggression, only rationalizations. 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.”
In a separate email, he later added that “many of these allegations are not true.”