The stars were first rumoured to be dating in 2018 after starring together in Honey Boy, the emotional film inspired by LaBeouf's childhood. Their relationship was confirmed by Barnett herself, and they went on to date for almost a year before the actor got back together with his ex-girlfriend Mia Goth.
Two years later, we may have a better idea of why the romance between the A-listers came to an end. As published in the New York Times, the recently filed lawsuit details a number of disturbing allegations of abuse against LaBeouf. Barnett claims that their year-long relationship was marked by physical and emotional violence; among other allegations, her suit says that LaBeouf 's "relentless abuse" towards her included sexual battery, assault and infliction of emotional distress. It states that he knowingly gave her a sexually transmitted disease and once even threatened to crash the moving vehicle that he was driving her in if Barnett didn't confess her love to him.
LaBeouf has since responded to the allegations raised against him, issuing a broad apology while also refuting some of the claims. He credited any misbehaviour in his relationships to his ongoing substance abuse issues.
"I’m not in any position to tell anyone how my behavior made them feel,” he wrote 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.”
"My second worst nightmare is being forced to share with the world that I am a survivor of domestic violence," Barnett captioned a screenshot of the New York Times story in a recent Instagram post. "My first worst nightmare is not telling anyone and knowing that I could have helped even just one person by sharing my story."
Barnett realises the gravity of her lawsuit and its claims — she's a Black woman, a reality that makes vulnerable in an industry that is racist at it is sexist — but she also feels compelled to share her story for that exact reason. There are many people who may be targeted by abusers because they are part of marginalised communities (and are unsupported in society in the process), and she wants to expose that predatory pattern.
"He brought me so low, below myself, that the idea of leaving him and having to work myself back up just seemed impossible," Barnett explained to the New York Times. "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.”
“I just thought to myself, no one is ever going to believe me,” she continued. “I’m unconventional. And I’m a person of color who is a female...I’d like to be able to raise awareness on the tactics that abusers use to control you and take away your agency."
If you are experiencing domestic abuse, please call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247