This story contains details of intimate partner violence.
In early December, the avant-pop singer named ex-boyfriend LaBeouf in a lawsuit, alleging numerous instances of sexual battery, assault, and infliction of emotional distress throughout their year-long relationship. The suit, explained in detail in a revealing New York Times story, saw Barnett list a number of terrifying encounters with her then-boyfriend; she claimed that LaBeouf had physically and emotional abused her as well as passed on a sexually transmitted disease to her without her knowledge.
LaBeouf has since denied some of the allegations, but he has also withdrawn from the public eye, cutting ties with his talent agency and checking into a facility for an unknown type of inpatient treatment. But his silence on the matter isn’t stopping Barnett from speaking up about what happened to her.
A traumatizing trip to Jamaica
Barnett recalled taking LaBeouf to Jamaica on a vacation, but what was supposed to be a pleasant trip quickly turned into a nightmare. The star told Elle that her ex was controlling and jealous the entire time, accusing her of sleeping with the resort staff and “flipping her hair” at them as a means of flirting. As a result, she said she was forced to avoid eye contact with other people during the trip so as to not incense LaBeouf further.
Fearing for her life
At some point, Barnett simply accepted that she might lose her life at the hands of her boyfriend. Between his consistent alleged abusive behavior towards her and his disturbingly violent tendencies (including "watch[ing] gruesome true-crime documentaries about women being violently murdered, bludgeoned, dismembered, or raped and literally shooting stray dogs with his personal handgun"), she was concerned that LaBeouf would kill her someday. So she secretly sent pictures of the gun to her manager in hopes that the authorities would be able to bring her to justice in the event of her death.
“I thought to myself, If he shoots me, and then if there is some sort of investigation, they will put the pieces together," Barnett shared. "'I need to leave little clues.’”
A thwarted escape plan
After meeting with a therapist, Barnett said that she started putting together an escape plan, but her first attempt was unsuccessful because it led to another episode with LaBeouf, ultimately weakening her resolve to leave the relationship at the time. She claims that the laid his full weight on her and proceeded to scream in her face for about 15 minutes, and at the end of the violent tirade, she was spent, explaining that "the fight had gone out of [her]."
Shia's misogynoir and fake allyship
As stated in her initial bombshell interview with the NYT, Barnett believes that her Blackness played a big part in the alleged abuse because Black women are so rarely believed, supported, or protected in any situation, thus prone to experiencing a significant amount of abuse. LaBeouf has positioned himself as an ally to the Black community throughout the recent years, but his allyship apparently didn't extend to his personal life, as evidenced by his alleged treatment of his actual half Black girlfriend.
“I’m half Black, and yet he’s being hailed as an ally of the Black community during Black Lives Matter [protests]?” she mused in conversation with Elle. “I’ve woken up to him strangling me multiple times. I’ve not been able to breathe at his hands.”
Hollywood’s enabling of abusers
“I’m not here to throw people under the bus, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that there [were] people who were very close to him who knew exactly what was going on,” she said. “There [were] people who have worked with Shia that I openly spoke to about the abuse that I was going through. The reaction that I got [from his team] was pretty much, ‘Okay. Well, it’s Sundance.' I was genuinely made to feel that Honey Boy was more important than my physical and emotional well-being.”
Although shame initially kept her from speaking up about her experience, Barnett is determined to shine a light on the culture of intimate partner violence and the many tactics that abusers use to keep their parters within the devastating, often fatal cycle of abuse. She was able to escape and begin the first steps of her ongoing healing process, and she hopes that by sharing her story, other people experiencing abuse will be able to do the same.
"If I can’t help people through my experience, it makes my experience 10 times worse," she concluded. "There has to be a point to this — a reason why this happened to me. It’s not just about my [personal] recovery....But I hope if I can make little steps, and people can see me taking my life back, it will inspire them."
If you are experiencing domestic abuse, please visit the Ending Violence Association of Canada to find a local hotline. In the event of an emergency, call 911.