Shia LaBeouf is at the center of a new disturbing lawsuit accusing him of domestic abuse towards his ex-girlfriend FKA twigs (real name Tahliah Debrett Barnett), and the allegations against the actor have since been corroborated by several of his other former relationships. The case is troubling but not necessarily a shock to anyone who has been closely following LaBeouf’s career — it’s just the latest in his history of unlawful behavior.
On December 11, The New York Times released a shocking article detailing an intense lawsuit against LaBeouf. In the suit, Barnett claims that the Hollywood star subjected her to abuse throughout their year-long romantic relationship. The article also notes another former ex of LaBeouf's corroborating Barnett's claims. A few days later, Sia called him a "pathological liar" who "conned" her into being in an adulterous relationship.
In a statement to the NYT, LaBeouf offered a non-apology ("I have no excuses for my alcoholism or aggression, only rationalizations," adding: "I’m ashamed of that history and am sorry to those I hurt. There is nothing else I can really say.") regarding Barnett's claims, and offered no comment on the lawsuit. But the suit does have many looking into his background. Over the course of his career, the actor has been involved in several notable legal cases and, as a result, has an observable police record.
In the late nineties when LaBeouf was just a kid getting his start in the industry, he was actually arrested twice for stealing (a pair of sneakers in 1996 and a Gameboy in 1998), but the incidents weren't major enough to land him in juvenile detention. However, trouble followed even after his star began to rise as a result of starring on Disney's Even Stevens. Between 2007 and 2008, long after the Disney series ended and LaBeouf had moved on to star in more adult projects like Disturbia and Transformers, he was arrested several times for various misdemeanors.
The actor's ongoing struggle with substance abuse seemed to play a major part in his legal woes, his repeated public intoxication lending to DUI cases, multiple physical altercations, and even his infamously belligerent outburst at a 2014 performance of Cabaret. But his misbehavior wasn't just harmful to himself; it also put other people in danger. His 2008 DUI incident led to two women being injured. He was detained by local police in Vancouver (2011) and New York City (2017) after started fights with locals. And in a frightening 2015 video, LaBeouf was seen acting menacingly towards his then-girlfriend Mia Goth at a hotel in Germany.
"I don’t wanna touch you. I don’t wanna be aggressive," he told Goth in the video. "This is the kind of shit that makes a person abusive."
The behavior points to a concerning thread, with LaBeouf showing that he has a history of acting out in ways that can be dangerous towards himself and towards others. The Peanut Butter Falcon star has copped to this demonstrable behavioral pattern a number of times — one 2017 statement even apologized for his "outright disrespect for authority" and asked for him to be "forgiven for [his] mistakes" — but the continued outbursts can't exactly be pushed aside without consequences. Even if his actions stem from a place of trauma and PTSD, others have still been hurt in the process.
Barnett's allegations against LaBeouf describe disturbing incidents of abuse. She claimed that her ex behaved violently towards her during their relationship, saying that the actor subjected her to emotional, mental, and physical abuse. The "cellophane" singer shared that she feared for her life while dating LaBeouf. In one particularly terrifying story shared in the New York Times article, Barnett describes a near-fatal car ride during which LaBeouf threaten to endanger both of their lives; he reportedly threatened to crash the car he was driving them in if Barnett didn't say that she loved him.
“What I went through with Shia was the worst thing I’ve ever been through in the whole of my life,” explained Barnett. “I don’t think people would ever think that it would happen to me.”
At the end of the day, it's important to note how privilege played a role in allowing LaBeouf to get this far in his career without experiencing serious consequences for his behavior throughout the years. That same privilege is no doubt also a major factor in why it's taken survivors of his alleged abuse so long to speak out about what happened to them. For women — specifically Black women like Barnett who face misogyny and racism at the same time — standing up against abusers is a hard thing to do because our society still tends to believe and forgive men, especially when they're famous. Even when their track record speaks for itself.
Refinery29 has reached out to LaBeouf for any additional comment on the lawsuit and allegations.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224 for confidential support.