[TW: domestic violence]
FKA twigs is an expert in artistic and personal vulnerability. Her 2019 album MAGDALENE is just one display of her talents, which include music, dance and acting. Recently, she has shown her personal vulnerability by coming forward about her experience with domestic violence at the hands of 34-year-old actor Shia LaBeouf.
FKA twigs (born Tahliah Barnett), 32, released her first EP in 2012, and her first album, LP1, in 2014. Her latest album, MAGDALENE, was ranked number 2 on Pitchfork’s “The 50 Best Albums of 2019.” In 2019, she launched her acting career after being cast in Shia LaBeouf’s film Honey Boy.
Barnett and LaBeouf began their almost year-long relationship while working on Honey Boy, which the pair starred in. In December 2020, Barnett sued LaBeouf for sexual battery, assault and infliction of emotional distress. The New York Times article about the lawsuit recounts disturbing instances of verbal, physical and psychological abuse and mistreatment. These details include LaBeouf threatening to crash their car unless she professed her love for him, then assaulting her and forcing her back into the vehicle when she tried to escape. She also said that LaBeouf knowingly gave her a sexually transmitted disease and that he was extremely controlling regarding her interactions with men, including those with LaBeouf himself.
This is not LaBeouf’s first violent offense. Karolyn Pho, a stylist who also dated him, cited similar incidents. Also, in 2012, LaBeouf reportedly made Lawless co-star Mia Wasikowska uncomfortable with his “really pretty aggressive” behavior after being drunk on set to get into character.
Unfortunately, these situations of abuse and trauma are not uncommon for women, famous or not, which contributes to why the FKA twigs-LaBeouf story quickly faded from the public eye. Intimate partner violence has been in the news and in communities countless times. Yet when survivors come forward, they are often accused of exaggerating or outright lying.
In an email to the New York Times, LaBeouf said the following:
“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 Times also reported that in a separate email, LaBeouf claimed that “many of these [Barnett and Pho’s] allegations are not true.” He continued to say that he owed Barnett and Pho “the opportunity to air their statements publicly and accept accountability for those things I have done.”
Although LaBeouf admitted that he has been abusive to those around him, people continue to accuse Barnett of lying and claim that LaBeouf would never act that way. LaBeouf’s critics see the accusations as a representation of a larger pattern of survivors being discredited, and the effect it has. In a tweet that garnered over 157,000 likes, a Twitter user said it best: “fka twigs isn’t going to see your tweets about her being a clout chaser and shia labeouf isn’t going to see your tweets about him being incapable of abuse but the people in your life who are victims of abuse will and will feel like they just lost yet another person on their team.”
The question remains: Is more important to uphold and protect a man’s career or a woman’s well-being? People have chosen the former time and time again, approaching survivors trying to process their abuse with nothing but hostile resentment. There is no evidence that Barnett is a liar, nor that she is a clout chaser. The invalidation of her accusations is not only damaging to her, but it also discourages others from coming forward about their own abuse because they now expect this treatment and invalidation. Every survivor shunned into silence about their abuse means another person will go through similar pain and trauma believing they are completely alone.
In an Instagram post made shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Barnett said, “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.”
Barnett “plans to donate a significant portion of any monetary damages to domestic-violence charities,” according to the Times.
Since the pandemic began, rates of domestic violence have sharply increased. More people (mostly women) than ever are experiencing abuse from their partner or family member. Now is not the time to immediately shut down survivors, but to support them and believe them when they come forward.