FKA Twigs Speaks Up On Domestic Abuse

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles by the musician, accuses the actor of sexual battery, assault and infliction of emotional distress.



The musician FKA twigs, born Tahliah Debrett Barnett, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court that accuses the actor Shia LaBeouf of sexual battery, assault and infliction of emotional distress. Credit: Ana Cuba for The New York Times


Just after Valentine’s Day in 2019, the musician FKA twigs was in a car speeding toward Los Angeles. At the wheel was her boyfriend, the actor Shia LaBeouf. He was driving recklessly, she said in a lawsuit filed on Friday, removing his seatbelt and threatening to crash unless she professed her love for him.

They were returning from the desert, where Mr. LaBeouf, the star of “Transformers,” had raged at her throughout the trip, FKA twigs said in the lawsuit, once waking her up in the middle of the night, choking her. After she begged to be let out of the car, she said he pulled over at a gas station and she took her bags from the trunk. But Mr. LaBeouf followed, and assaulted her, throwing her against the car while screaming in her face, according to the suit. He then forced her back in the car.

The gas station incident is at the heart of the lawsuit that says Mr. LaBeouf, 34, abused FKA twigs physically, emotionally and mentally many times in a relationship that lasted just short of a year. 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,” FKA twigs, 32, born Tahliah Debrett Barnett, said.

Mr. LaBeouf responded Thursday to the concerns raised by Ms. Barnett, and a second former girlfriend who has accused him of abusive behavior, in an email that broadly addressed his conduct.

“I’m not in any position to tell anyone how my behavior made them feel,” he said in an email to The New York 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.”


The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, says that Mr. LaBeouf knowingly gave Ms. Barnett a sexually transmitted disease. It accuses him of “relentless abuse,” including sexual battery, assault and infliction of emotional distress.

Mr. LaBeouf and his representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.


Karolyn Pho, a stylist who is another of Mr. LaBeouf’s former girlfriends, described similarly tumultuous experiences to The Times, some of which are also outlined in the lawsuit. 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,” she said in an interview.


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