Multiple people have accused Arcade Fire’s Win Butler of sexual misconduct. In a lengthy report published by Pitchfork, three women have come forward accusing Butler of having inappropriate sexual relationships with them; they were all between 18 and 23 at the start of those interactions, which reportedly took place during overlapping periods from 2016 to 2020 when the singer was between 36 and 39.
A fourth person, who identifies as gender-fluid and uses they/them pronouns, has also come forward, claiming that Butler sexually assaulted them twice in 2015, when they were 21 and he was 34.
In a written statement to Pitchfork, Butler (via crisis public relations expert Risa Heller) said that the sexual encounters did take place with all four people but that they were consensual and not initiated by him. Butler also offered to put the outlet in touch with women who had consensual sexual experiences with him in the past.
The rep also shared a written statement from Butler’s wife and Arcade Fire bandmate Régine Chassagne, who says, “He has lost his way, and he has found his way back.”
Butler later shared a second statement with Pitchfork, where he describes a period of drinking and depression: “While these relationships were all consensual, I am very sorry to anyone who I have hurt with my behavior,” he wrote. “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’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.”
The piece goes on to detail a relationship with Lily (a pseudonym), who alleges that they first met Butler in 2015 when they were 21 and studying art in Montreal. After meeting up a couple of times (Lily says they were not interested in a romantic relationship), they claim that “Butler stuck his hands into their pants without consent while driving them home after the meal. When Lily expressed discomfort, they say, Butler eventually removed his hand and dropped them off at home.”
In another instance, Butler allegedly showed up to Lily’s apartment in February after Lily asked him not to. He also apparently refused when they asked him to leave.
I opened my door and he pinned me up against the wall and was aggressively grabbing my body and sticking his tongue down my throat. It was an attempt to be sexy, and it was so not OK in the context.
Eventually he pulled me onto his lap on my couch. I don’t know if he was holding me by the waist or what, but I was physically constrained by him as he was putting his hand down my pants. At some point he tried to go down on me… The anger and the power in my voice surprised me. I will never forget it.
Butler apparently began to berate Lily for denying his advances. His statement about the incident reads:
We moved to [Lily’s] bed, but it felt like the mood was weird so I stopped and asked if [Lily] was OK. It seemed like maybe things were moving a little fast. [Lily] never asked me to leave, and I never berated [them]. I did express some genuine confusion as to how the mood had shifted so suddenly and become awkward. I said it was no big deal at all. I stopped and I left.
[Lily] wrote me to apologize the next day. I figured it wasn’t a match, and not a big deal. I never forced myself on [them], and when the mood changed I stopped and checked in and left with no drama or issue. I would never assault anyone and I did not assault [Lily].
Additional accounts from a woman called Stella (a pseudonym) allege that Butler sent her explicit texts without consent or reciprocation after they met when she was 18. She claims Butler sent her unsolicited photos of his genitals. Butler also told Pitchfork that Stella had been drunk on occasion and had made her own sexual advance, which she denies.
Two more women spoke to Pitchfork, identified as Sarah and Fiona (also pseudonyms). They claim that Butler responded to Instagram messages about his music with casual conversation at first, which then turned into requests for sexually explicit videos. Sarah was 23, and Fiona was 20 at the time, which was in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
“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.’ He used me, basically, as his personal therapist, and easy way to get sex over the phone. The FaceTimes would be strictly: he gets off, hangs up. I felt sick every day after I did it.”
Butler’s statement characterizes Sarah’s relationship as being more one-sided: “I love our fans but this was an unhealthy fandom. We started sexting and talking a lot, but I became increasingly uncomfortable when she started coming to all my DJ events and showing up to my restaurant multiple times, to the point I had to tell security to make sure she didn’t get too close.”
As for Fiona, Butler calls this relationship — which went from digital to in-person — “consensual.” “We would sext and eventually slept together a couple times. The first time, I realized she had a tattoo of my band, which honestly felt a little weird.”
After a sexual encounter the night before Arcade Fire performed in Vancouver in 2017, Fiona tells Pitchfork that she attempted suicide by swallowing a large quantity of extra-strength Tylenol. “I felt incredibly low,” she said. “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.”
Butler claims the two lost touch after that, but that he eventually did hear from her “almost a year later” with a message saying that “she missed me and wanted to sext again, which we did.” Fiona denies that she ever reached back out.
Butler’s statement around his relationship with Fiona is as follows:
Later, she messaged me after saying that the experience of hooking up with me had been difficult on her mentally, which was really surprising and very sad to me. We immediately talked on the phone and although she indicated her depression was not related to me, I left that conversation committed to never sleeping with someone again that I fundamentally knew so little about. It really shook me. Although she repeated it was unrelated to me, she was suffering from mental illness, to which I am very sympathetic. After this we wrote for pages and pages like the friends we had become and the feeling I had was that something had been healed in both of us. We talked about getting coffee next time I was in Vancouver, which I intended to do before I heard of these accusations.
Fiona told Pitchfork of her depression: “It was absolutely related to him.”
In July 2020, Stella shared a post on her Instagram Story mentioning Butler by name: “I want to share one of my stories that I’ve kept secret for so long,” she wrote. “Sexual predator—from when I was an 18-year-old fan girl, he would constantly try to coerce me into sexual encounters and sending nude photos of myself and sending unsolicited nude pictures of himself after I repeatedly told him I was not interested.”
Seeing the post, Sarah reached out to Stella and uploaded a screenshot of the post to Reddit earlier this year. Lily and Fiona, plus another woman who allegedly had a consensual relationship with Butler responded in the comments. Another woman also described an in-person sexual interaction with Butler that she ultimately felt was consensually blurry, given their age differences and power dynamic. “It’s this really complicated thing,” the woman told Pitchfork. “Yes, it was consensual, but also, there’s a side to it that was almost like, I couldn’t say no.”
Butler’s full statement is below:
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.
Régine Chassagne’s statement is as follows:
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.
Stereogum has reached out to Arcade Fire’s representation for further comment. Read Pitchfork’s full report here.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual assault, support is available from these services:
RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline
1 800 656 HOPE (4673)
Crisis Text Line
http://www.facebook.com/crisistextline (chat support)
SMS: Text “HERE” to 741-741