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3 Things to Know About FKA Twigs' Abuse Accusations Against Shia LaBeouf

Singer and actress FKA Twigs filed a lawsuit against her former boyfriend, actor Shia LeBeouf, who she dated for less than a year in 2018 and 2019. The New York Times outlined the allegations on Friday, which included “relentless” sexual, physical and emotional abuse.

Twigs, aka Tahliah Debrett Barnett said in an interview she wanted to highlight that anyone can end up in an abusive relationship. As an acclaimed artist, Twigs said she has access to financial resources and a support system.

“I’d like to be able to raise awareness on the tactics that abusers use to control you and take away your agency,” she said. “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.”


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In response to a request from the New York Times, LaBeouf pointed to his history with addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while admitting his behavior has hurt people in the past. He said some of the accusations leveled against him are not true and he is currently in therapy and a 12-step sober program.

“I have no excuses for my alcoholism or aggression, only rationalizations,” he said, adding:

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.

Twigs filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles. Other past partners, including stylist Karolyn Pho and actress Mia Goth, have also alleged abusive treatment from LaBeouf.

As the case is pending, here are three things you should know about Twigs’ allegations against LaBeouf:

1. An Abusive Relationship Can Happen Over Time

Abusive relationships don’t typically go from 0 to 100 overnight. That’s part of why they’re so insidious — you’re broken down brick by brick over time. It might not even be apparent what’s happening at first.

You may start in a “honeymoon phase” where nothing seems wrong in the relationship. Only later does it become clear a partner is abusive. Domestic violence can start with statements like “You can’t do anything right” and progress to sexual assault and physical violence. This process happens gradually before you realize just how worn down you’ve become.

In sharing her experience with LaBeouf, Twigs said it became more difficult for her to leave the relationship the longer they were together. She said it felt like her sense of self-worth became so worn down that it was hard to see anything beyond the abusive relationship.

One of LeBeouf’s former partners who also alleged domestic violence said she had a similar experience. “So much goes into breaking down a man or woman to make them OK with a certain kind of treatment,” Pho said in an interview.

2. It’s Not Easy to Leave an Abusive Relationship

You’ve probably heard it: “Why didn’t they just leave the abusive relationship?” If you’ve been there, you know it isn’t so simple. Abuse happens gradually and you can’t always see what’s happening until it feels like it’s too late. Your path out might not seem possible — or it might be dangerous.

“He brought me so low, below myself, that the idea of leaving him and having to work myself back up just seemed impossible,” Twigs said of her experience.

She added in an Instagram post: “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.”

Eventually Twigs was able to work with a therapist to get the support she needed to leave the relationship. She said had the financial means to leave, unlike many who become financially dependent on their abusive partner.

But even Twigs still had to go through a long, gradual process before she could get out of the relationship. According to the lawsuit, Twigs alleged LeBeouf lashed out at her when she did try to leave. “It can happen to anybody,” she said.

3. You’re Not Alone If You Experience Domestic Abuse

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), about 25% of women and 10% of men will experience significant intimate partner violence. Reports indicate rates of domestic violence have also increased during the COVID-19 pandemic as people are stuck at home more.

If you’re in an abusive relationship and feel like you can’t get out, know you’re not alone. Having support can go a long way, whether it’s from your loved ones or one of the great organizations ready to help you.

Visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline for information on what resources are available. NCADV also has resources to support those experiencing intimate partner violence, including a safety plan.

“I hope that by sharing my experience I can truly help others feel like they are not alone,” Twigs wrote on Instagram of her decision to come forward. She added:

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.

Header images via FKA Twigs/Instagram and DoD News Features, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons