The singer FKA Twigs was in a vehicle heading toward Los Angeles shortly after Valentine’s Day in 2019. Her boyfriend, the actor Shia LaBeouf, stood at the wheel. She said in a complaint filed on Friday, cutting his seatbelt and threatening to crash until she professed her love for him, he was driving recklessly.
They were returning from the desert, where during the entire journey, Mr. LaBeouf, the star of the Transformers, had screamed at her, FKA twigs said in the complaint, awakening her in the middle of the night and choking her. She said he pulled over at a gas station after she asked to be let out of the car and she removed her bags from the trunk. Yet Mr. LaBeouf pursued her and attacked her, tossing her in front of the car and shouting in her face at the suit. After that, he pushed her back into the car.
The event at the gas station is at the center of the litigation that claims Mr. LaBeouf, 34, in a relationship that lasted only shy of a year, violated FKA twigs sexually, verbally and psychologically several times. Her intention in coming out, she said in an interview, was to understand how such a critically acclaimed artist could be trapped in such a loop of money, a home and a strong network of supporters.
FKA Twigs, 32, born Tahliah Debrett Barnett, said, “I would like to be able to raise awareness of the tactics that abusers use to control you and take your agency away.”
In an email that narrowly discussed his actions, Mr. LaBeouf replied Thursday to the questions posed by Ms. Barnett and a second former girlfriend who accused him of abusive behavior.
I’m not in any place,” he said in an email to The New York Times, “to tell someone how my actions made them feel. “I have no reasons, only rationalizations, for my drinking or violence. For years, I have been cruel to myself and everyone around me. I’ve got a history of hurting the nearest people to me. I’m ashamed of history, and I’m sorry for the people I’ve hurt. Nothing that I can even tell is there.
Filed in Los Angeles Supreme Court, the case states that Mr. LaBeouf intentionally gave Ms. Barnett a sexually transmitted illness. It accuses him of “relentless abuse,” including sexual battery, violence, and emotional distress involvement.
The request for comment on the lawsuit was not immediately addressed by Mr. LaBeouf and his lawyer.
The Times’s equally turbulent encounters were identified by Karolyn Pho, a stylist who is another of Mr. LaBeouf’s former girlfriends, some of which are also detailed in the complaint. He drunkenly pinned her to a bed once the suit claims, and head-butted her, so that she bled. She started to struggle with the fact afterwards that he was exploiting her. She said in an interview, “So much goes into breaking a man or woman down to make them OK with a certain kind of treatment.”
“Presented in interviews and subsequently in the lawsuit with a detailed account of the allegations that the women made against him, Mr. LaBeouf, responding in a separate email, wrote that all of these allegations are not real.” But, he continued, he owed the women the right to publicly air their statements and take blame for those actions I have done.
He added that he was “a sober member of a program of 12 steps” and was in counseling. “He said I am not free of my PTSD and alcoholism, but I am committed to doing what I need to do in order to heal, and I will really be grateful for the people I might have hurt along the way.”
“Mr. LaBeouf has a long history of turbulent behavior. According to newspaper reports and public records, he was arrested several times on charges that were dismissed, including assault and disorderly behavior. In 2015, strangers recorded a video of him arguing with his girlfriend at the time, actress Mia Goth, telling her, “This is the sort of thing that makes a guy violent.
Ms. Barnett said that at the point of bruising, Mr. LaBeouf would squeeze or catch her. But she did not go to the police, she said, first out of a misplaced fear for hurting his career, then then because she felt her account would not be taken seriously, because it would be pointless.
While several jurisdictions have statutes that treat gender-based, sexual or domestic abuse as a breach of civil rights, tort suits of the type Ms. Barnett is undertaking remain comparatively uncommon, with a daunting account of traumatic moments; most commonly, complaints occur in divorce or custody hearings, or when seeking protective orders. But since the #MeToo, there has been a small uptick of civil lawsuits.
According to the National Organization for Women, three women die each day at the hands of their attackers. The pandemic has escalated dangerous circumstances by requiring couples to remain in close proximity without interruption, law enforcement authorities said and hotlines around the world have reported a spike in requests for assistance.
“In the litigation, after she was cast in “Honey Boy,” a largely autobiographical film he wrote, Ms. Barnett explains how she met Mr. LaBeouf in 2018, and they began dating after the film ended. The early days of their relationship were characterized by his “over-the-top displays of affection,” she says in the lawsuit, which helped win her confidence.
There is always a “honeymoon phase” in an abusive relationship, as some experts term it that creates intimacy and sets a benchmark for how happy the romance should be. It serves as a powerful lure; while bursts of bliss can remain, they are met by increasingly controlling demands and unrealistic behavioral expectations.
Ms. Barnett and Ms. Pho claimed in the complaint that Mr. LaBeouf did not appreciate it if they spoke to or smiled at male waiters; Ms. Barnett said in an interview that when men spoke to her, she learned to hold her eyes down. She also mentioned in the suit that Mr. LaBeouf had restrictions for how many occasions a day she had to kiss and hug him, which he frequently harangued and mocked.
Instead of going back to London, where she and her professional circle lived, Mr. LaBeouf persuaded Ms. Barnett to stay with him in Los Angeles, she said. She said it was a step into her loneliness. And he would always suggest that she was used by her artistic team, a message that ultimately caused her to distrust them.
But it became scary to live with him, she said The complaint claims that he had a loaded pistol by the bed and that she was terrified to use the toilet at night so that he didn’t mistake her for an intruder and kill her. He didn’t let her wear clothes to bed, and would spin a trifling argument over an artist she liked and he didn’t, for instance, into an all-night fight, depriving her of sleep,
The circumstance arrived right after she completed what became her most highly acclaimed album, “Magdalene.” Ms. Barnett said she found herself in stasis, unable to fulfill her professional responsibilities, and confusing her peers and colleagues. “Twigs is always the driving force behind her career, always a step ahead of everyone else,” said Michael Stirton, her long-time boss.
She said she felt as though her safety lines were unraveling as Ms. Barnett became increasingly alienated. She said the gas station event had arisen in public, and no one stepped to her aid; an early effort she tried to warn a supervisor was laughed aside. “I just thought to myself, no one will ever believe me,” she said in an interview. “I’m unconventional. And I’m a person of color who is a female.”
Slowly, she started strategizing her escape with the aid of a psychiatrist. As she was packing to leave in the spring of 2019, Mr. LaBeouf showed up unannounced and terrorized her in the lawsuit, according to a sworn deposition by a witness, her housekeeper. When Ms. Barnett wouldn’t leave with him the statement states, he “violently grabbed” her, swept her up and locked her in another room, where he yeee…
The litigation claims that leaving him started to sound “both difficult and dangerous.” And even though she grew in determination, she became exhausted, she told her psychiatrist, checked by The Times in an email. While she had the means, she said in an interview that it took many efforts for Ms. Barnett to extricate herself, and it was only after she discovered how torn down she had been.
“I could have bought myself a business-flight plane ticket back to my four-story townhouse in Hackney all the time I was with him,” she said in London. And then she didn’t. “He brought me so low, below me, that it just seemed impossible to leave him and have to work myself back up,” she said.
Ms. Barnett said in her lawsuit that she wants to donate to domestic-violence charities a large amount of any punitive damages. In reality, getting out was very costly, and a huge undertaking of time and money,” she said in an interview.”
Her status makes her condition, she said, peculiar. Yet she wanted her story to be told because it was too popular everywhere.
She said What I went through with Shia was the worst thing I’ve ever been through in my entire life.” I don’t think that people really think it’s going to happen to me. But that’s the thing, I guess. This can happen to everyone.