[CW: This piece includes discussion of alleged sexual assault and attempted suicide.]
Arcade Fire vocalist and guitarist Win Butler has been accused of sexual misconduct ranging from nonconsensual sexting to sexual assault by three women and a gender-fluid fourth person, according to an extensive Pitchfork report that cites text and Instagram message screenshots, and interviews with “friends and family members who said they recalled being told about the alleged incidents.” Butler acknowledged these extramarital relationships, but disputed details of their nature in one of two written statements he issued to the outlet via New York-based crisis public relations expert Risa Heller, “vehemently” denying any nonconsensual contact and apologizing multiple times in the other. His Arcade Fire bandmate and wife of 19 years, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Régine Chassagne, backed Butler in a written statement of her own.
The three women, Stella, Sarah and Fiona (who requested the use of pseudonyms in Pitchfork’s report), “made allegations of sexual interactions with Butler that they came to feel were inappropriate given the gaps in age, power dynamics, and context in which they occurred.” They were “devoted Arcade Fire fans” ranging in age from 18 to 23 when their interactions with Butler began—said interactions overlapped from 2016 to 2020, when Butler was between 36 and 39 years old. The fourth person, Lily (also a pseudonym), alleges that Butler sexually assaulted them twice in 2015—once when they were in a car together, and a second time when he allegedly showed up to their apartment against their wishes—when they were 21 and he was 34. Butler maintains that “every single one of these interactions [was] mutual and always between consenting adults. It is deeply revisionist, and frankly just wrong, for anyone to suggest otherwise.”
Lily and Butler’s accounts of their relationship differ widely: Lily, who was aware Butler was married, and who “had a long-term partner at the time” themself, maintains that “their interactions were friendly, not flirtatious,” while Butler’s account is of a mutual attraction. While driving Lily home from dinner, Butler allegedly “stuck his hands into their pants without consent,” a touching of their crotch Lily acknowledged may have been “through their pants rather than […] inside,” but characterized as “very aggressive.” About two days later, Butler “texted asking to come over and Lily repeatedly told him not to,” they say—instead, Butler allegedly showed up at their Montreal apartment and “pinned [Lily] up against the wall and was aggressively grabbing [their] body and sticking his tongue down [their] throat,” refused to leave when asked multiple times, “physically constrained” and “tried to go down on [Lily]” despite their not consenting, and “began berating them for denying his advances.” Butler maintained that their kissing was “definitely mutual,” ”[Lily] never asked [him] to leave, and [he] never berated [them].” Lily came to view these encounters as sexual assaults. “I would never assault anyone and I did not assault [Lily],” Butler told Pitchfork.
Stella alleged that Butler sexted her without her consent when she was 18 and he was 36: “I definitely said explicitly that the texts and pictures were not wanted, but that did not stop him.” A friend of Stella’s confirmed that Butler had sent Stella pictures of his genitals, telling Pitchfork, “She was devastated.” Another friend of Stella’s recalls of an encounter with Butler they had at a bar, “To me he was just another creepy old guy, and to her it was her hero.” “I didn’t realize the significance of the age difference at the time,” Butler said of his interactions with Stella. “I can now see how it could be overwhelming thinking back to when I was 18, but at the time I didn’t appreciate that.”
Sarah and Fiona both claim that Butler “responded to Instagram messages about their love for his music with casual conversation that shifted in tone when he began requesting and then demanding to be sent increasingly explicit sexual videos”—they were 23 and 20 at the time, in 2018 and 2017, respectively, and describe their encounters with the musician “in terms of the exploitation of a power dynamic,” saying that “the transactional nature of the interactions took an emotional toll.” Both women allege that Butler repeatedly demanded sexts and sexual video chats from them; “I did everything because it was him,” Sarah told Pitchfork. “I don’t like doing any kind of video stuff, especially sexual stuff. I remember being so nervous and so ashamed that I did it. I’d be like, ‘I don’t feel well.’ And he’d be like, ‘Send me a picture right now.’”
Sarah’s mother said she was struck by “her depression” around that time, describing her daughter as “spiraling and more troubled than I’d seen her in a while.” Fiona alleges that her interactions with Butler eventually included in-person sexual activity, which Butler maintains “was consensual.” But after one alleged sexual encounter in 2017, Fiona says she “attempted suicide by swallowing a large quantity of extra-strength Tylenol,” recalling to Pitchfork, “I felt incredibly low. The toll of having to keep everything secret, constantly pushing my needs aside in order to appease him, lack of boundaries, and the guilt of being the other woman was getting too hard to ignore.”
Pitchfork also reports that another unnamed woman, “unconnected to the others, described an in-person sexual interaction with Butler that she felt blurred the lines of consent due to the power dynamic between them,” telling the outlet, ”It’s this really complicated thing. Yes, it was consensual, but also, there’s a side to it that was almost like, I couldn’t say no.”
“Apologies are things I’ve come not to expect from people who perpetuate harm,” Lily told the outlet of Butler’s response to their account. “But if he could sit back for a moment and realize what he has done enough to understand that he has to change his behavior, then maybe that would be enough to protect other people moving forward.”
Paste has reached out to reps for Arcade Fire for further comment, and will update this post with any we may receive.
Read Butler and Chassagne’s statements below, and the full report at Pitchfork.
Statement from Win Butler:
I love Régine with all of my heart. We have been together for twenty years, she is my partner in music and in life, my soulmate and I am lucky and grateful to have her by my side. But at times, it has been difficult to balance being the father, husband, and bandmate that I want to be. Today I want to clear the air about my life, poor judgment, and mistakes I have made.
I have had consensual relationships outside of my marriage.
There is no easy way to say this, and the hardest thing I have ever done is having to share this with my son. The majority of these relationships were short lived, and my wife is aware – our marriage has, in the past, been more unconventional than some. I have connected with people in person, at shows, and through social media, and I have shared messages of which I am not proud. Most importantly, every single one of these interactions has been mutual and always between consenting adults. It is deeply revisionist, and frankly just wrong, for anyone to suggest otherwise.
I have never touched a woman against her will, and any implication that I have is simply false. I vehemently deny any suggestion that I forced myself on a woman or demanded sexual favors. That simply, and unequivocally, never happened.
While these relationships were all consensual, I am very sorry to anyone who I have hurt with my behavior. Life is filled with tremendous pain and error, and I never want to be part of causing someone else’s pain.
I have long struggled with mental health issues and the ghosts of childhood abuse. In my 30s, I started drinking as I dealt with the heaviest depression of my life after our family experienced a miscarriage. None of this is intended to excuse my behavior, but I do want to give some context and share what was happening in my life around this time. I no longer recognized myself or the person I had become. Régine waited patiently watching me suffer and tried to help me as best as she could. I know it must have been so hard for her to watch the person she loved so lost.
I have been working hard on myself – not out of fear or shame, but because I am a human being who wants to improve despite my flaws and damage. I’ve spent the last few years since Covid hit trying to save that part of my soul. I have put significant time and energy into therapy and healing, including attending AA. I am more aware now of how my public persona can distort relationships even if a situation feels friendly and positive to me. I am very grateful to Régine, my family, my dear friends, and my therapist, who have helped me back from the abyss that I felt certain at times would consume me. The bond I share with my bandmates and the incredibly deep connection I’ve made with an audience through sharing music has literally saved my life.
As I look to the future, I am continuing to learn from my mistakes and working hard to become a better person, someone my son can be proud of. I say to you all my friends, family, to anyone I have hurt and to the people who love my music and are shocked and disappointed by this report: I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the pain I caused – I’m sorry I wasn’t more aware and tuned in to the effect I have on people – I fucked up, and while not an excuse, I will continue to look forward and heal what can be healed, and learn from past experiences. I can do better and I will do better.
Statement from Régine Chassagne:
Win is my soulmate, my songwriting partner, my husband, the father of my beautiful boy. He has been my partner in life and in music for 20 years. And for all of the love in our lives, I have also watched him suffer through immense pain. I have stood by him because I know he is a good man who cares about this world, our band, his fans, friends, and our family. I’ve known Win since before we were “famous,” when we were just ordinary college students. I know what is in his heart, and I know he has never, and would never, touch a woman without her consent and I am certain he never did. He has lost his way and he has found his way back. I love him and love the life we have created together.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual assault, contact RAINN via chat or phone at 800-656-4673 for support and resources.