June 5, 2019 is the day I wrote that FKA twigs might be on a break with Shia LaBeouf after dating for about a year. As it turns out, the reality of that “break” might have been more like an escape, or a break for freedom. Because FKA twigs filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles earlier today, and in it she claims her time with Shia was an endless nightmare of abuse, controlling behavior, isolation, and career sabotage.
FKA twigs, whose real name is Tahlia Debrett Barnett, spoke to The New York Times about her lawsuit. In it, she claims that after meeting Shia on the set of Honey Boy, they got together and things were really nice and over-the-top romantic at first, which is likely ringing familiar for some people who have been in abusive relationships before. FKA says Shia went the extra mile to be the World’s Best Boyfriend, and once she was fully smitten, he turned into…well, Shia LaBeouf, technically. Despite his attempted redemption tour, Shia has been known to be ragey and violent. It’s also not his first time being accused of violence against a girlfriend. In 2015, Shia was recorded getting into a public fight with his then-girlfriend (and possibly current girlfriend) Mia Goth in Germany. Shia was seen screaming at Mia that, “This is the kind of shit that makes a person abusive,” and later told two men that he could’ve killed her.
FKA says that Shia started to implement weird, controlling rules, like how many times a day she was required to kiss him or touch him. She says she wasn’t allowed to talk to or make eye contact with male servers when they went to restaurants or bars. FKA alleges that Shia convinced her to live in Los Angeles with him, even though she’s from London and almost all her professional contacts are in the UK. The way FKA describes living with Shia makes it sound like that ultra-chaotic scene from Boogie Nights where everyone thinks they’re going to get shot and killed by a sleep-deprived, high, and agitated Alfred Molina.
Living with him became frightening, she said. The lawsuit says that he kept a loaded firearm by the bed and that she was scared to use the bathroom at night lest he mistake her for an intruder and shoot her. He didn’t let her wear clothing to bed, and would spin a trifling disagreement – over an artist she liked and he didn’t, for example – into an all-night fight, depriving her of sleep, the suit says.
FKA says she wanted to leave, but didn’t, because Shia had been planting seeds of doubt in her mind about people she was working with on her album Magdalene, which further isolated her from London. And even when she tried to leave, she says she wasn’t physically able to. FKA says she and Shia took a Valentine’s Day trip to the desert in 2019. FKA claims Shia raged out almost the entire trip, and at one point, she claims she woke up to him choking her. According to her lawsuit, Shia drove back to Los Angeles in an aggressive, erratic way, allegedly threatening to crash the car unless FKA she said she loved him. She allegedly begged to get out of the car. When they stopped at a gas station, she grabbed her bags and tried to leave, but she alleges he physically forced her back into the car.
As for the sexual battery allegation, the lawsuit claims that Shia knowingly gave FKA a sexually transmitted disease.
Adding some credibility to FKA’s lawsuit are some claims from Los Angeles stylist Karolyn Pho, who used to date Shia. Like FKA, she also claims that Shia didn’t like it when she looked at or spoke to male waiters. And, she also alleges he got violent with her:
Once, the suit says, he drunkenly pinned her to a bed and head-butted her, enough that she bled. Afterward, she began to grapple with the idea that he was abusing her. “So much goes into breaking down a man or woman to make them OK with a certain kind of treatment.”
Karolyn’s allegation that Shia broke her down so much that she became emotionally dependent on him is pretty classic abuser behavior. And it also explains, according to FKA, why she stayed for as long as she did and why she didn’t report any of it at the time. FKA tells The New York Times:
Her aim in coming forward, she said in an interview, was to explain how even a critically acclaimed artist with money, a home and a strong network of supporters could be caught in such a cycle.
“I’d like to be able to raise awareness on the tactics that abusers use to control you and take away your agency. What I went through with Shia was the worst thing I’ve ever been through in the whole of my life. 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.”
FKA adds that even though she had evidence of abuse, like a bruise from where Shia grabbed or squeezed her, she didn’t go to the police because she was sure they wouldn’t believe her or they just wouldn’t take it seriously. And it took her so long to leave because he isolated her so badly from her social circle and work contacts. Once she got the courage to leave, Shia tried to prevent her from going. According to a sworn statement from a housekeeper, Shia grabbed FKA and locked her in a room, where he yelled at her for trying to leave him.
FKA is seeking damages from her lawsuit because she says it cost a lot of money for her to finally leave him. However, she does plan on donating a “significant portion” of any damages she’s awarded to domestic violence charities. It’s not know how much she’s seeking. FKA also added that the lawsuit isn’t about money. She wants to warn other women about Shia.
The New York Times reached out to Shia for his thoughts on this, and he initially released the following statement, in which he didn’t deny the claims made by FKA twigs, but blames it on the alcohol:
“I’m not in any position to tell anyone how my behavior made them feel. 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.”
The New York Times says that Shia then sent them a second response, possibly after he fully read through the claims in the lawsuit and the statements made by FKA and Karolyn to The Times, and well, he’s changed his mind and has decided to deny most of it now. However, he still thinks they have every right to make their claims against him and acknowledged alcoholism and PTSD made him a nightmare to be around:
Mr. LaBeouf wrote that “many of these allegations are not true.” But, he continued, he owed the women “the opportunity to air their statements publicly and accept accountability for those things I have done.” He added that he was “a sober member of a 12-step program” and in therapy.
“I am not cured of my PTSD and alcoholism, 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.”
I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ve heard of this lawsuit. Shia believes that many of the allegations aren’t true, so this could be a Johnny Depp defamation situation in the making. And if it gets to that, I’m sure alcoholism and PTSD will be busy on the day they’re asked to testify on behalf of Shia. “Um, you can blame us all you want, but this one’s on you, buddy.”