She claims the actor knowingly gave her an STI.

By Taylyn Washington-Harmon
December 11, 2020
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Content Warning: This article contains mentions of sexual battery, sexual assault, and rape, and may be upsetting to some readers.

Singer and actress FKA Twigs recently filed a lawsuit against former boyfriend Shia LaBeouf, accusing the actor of "relentless abuse" including sexual battery, assault and infliction of emotional distress, the New York Times reported on Friday. The two dated for less than a year between 2018 and 2019.

Born Tahliah Barnett, Twigs, 32, does not publicly mention the details of the sexual battery, but at the heart of the lawsuit, claims that LaBeouf, 34, threatened to crash a car unless she professed her love for him and woke up to him choking her in the middle of the night, among other offenses. Twigs also claims that LaBeouf knowingly gave her a sexually transmitted infection according to Los Angeles Superior Court, which is considered a misdemeanor crime by California Health and Safety Code.

“I’m not in any position to tell anyone how my behavior made them feel,” LaBeouf wrote in an email to the Times responding to the lawsuit. “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.” In a separate email, LaBeouf added that “many of these allegations are not true.” But, he continued, he owed the women “the opportunity to air their statements publicly and accept accountability for those things I have done.”

The Times notes that while lawsuits like this one are uncommon—abuse allegations typically come up while seeking orders of protection or during divorce or custody hearings—Twigs decided to go forward with her lawsuit to bring attention to the issue of domestic abuse. “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 per the Times.

What is sexual battery?

The definition of sexual battery varies from state to state, but in the state of California where the lawsuit was filed, sexual battery is defined as intimate touching against one's will for the purpose of sexual arousal gratification, or sexual abuse according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). Sexual battery is considered a felony punishable by up to four years in prison, along with a fine.

"Sexual battery is used as a legal term to describe touching someone without their consent," a representative of the California-based Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault who wishes to remain anonymous, tells Health. "It could be any unwanted physical touch of a sexual nature. What I would call sexual assault would be called sexual battery. We won't know exactly what [Twigs] means unless she shares more details about it."

"Sexual battery is a sexual offense," Elizabeth L. Jeglic, PhD, a clinical psychologist, sexual violence prevention researcher, and professor of psychology at John Jay College in New York City, tells Health. "The definition varies by state but generally it refers to non-consensual or coerced sexual contact that does not result in penetration—that can involve fondling of the breasts, touching of the buttocks or genital area, forced kissing or forcing someone to touch the perpetrator sexually against their will."

Also according to California law, sexual battery is defined differently than rape. While sexual battery refers to nonconsensual intimate touching, any form of nonconsensual sexual penetration constitutes rape, and the two are considered separate crimes. "The only difference [between sexual battery and] rape, there is penetration—orally, vaginally, or anally," says the representative. "With sexual assault or battery, there is no penetration component, just any form of nonconsensual touching."

What to do if you've experienced sexual battery

First, if you're in immediate danger, call 911. If possible, get away from the person who harmed you as soon as possible and reach out to your local rape crisis center. "Talk to someone about it so you can see what resources are available to you," say the representative. "There's no right or wrong way to process this experience."

If a friend or loved one has experienced sexual battery, listen and offer comfort. Remind them that their experience is not their fault. If possible, offer to go with them to the hospital or to counseling for support.

Jeglic also suggests reaching out to National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline through RAINN. "They can help walk you through your options and put you in touch with local support organizations that can help with your healing."

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