Win Butler, who performs with wife Régine Chassagne in Arcade Fire, has been accused of sexual misconduct by four people.
In a report published by Pitchfork on Saturday (Aug. 27), three female Arcade Fire fans and a fourth person who is gender-fluid and uses they/them pronouns claimed that they’d had sexual interactions with Butler when they were between the ages of 18 and 23 that they deemed inappropriate; one claimed that they’d been sexually assaulted by the musician. In a statement given to the publication, Butler said that the extramarital relationships were consensual.
Billboard reached out to a representative for Butler, who said he had no further comment beyond the statement provided to Pitchfork.
The alleged incidents took place between the years of 2015 and 2020. The alleged victims asked to use pseudonyms for privacy. Pitchfork viewed screenshots of text and Instagram messages and interviewed friends and family members of those who spoke out.
One person alleged that Butler sexually assaulted them twice in 2015, when they were a 21-year-old art student and he was 34. They saw their interactions as only friendly, while Butler remembered them as flirtatious. They said one incident took place when they were together in a car — where he allegedly stuck his hands either into or through their pants without consent — and the other happened when he showed up at their apartment despite them telling him not to come over.
“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,” they recalled. “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 denied any non-consensual behavior, noting that “it felt like the mood was weird so I stopped and asked if [they were] OK. It seemed like maybe things were moving a little fast. [They] 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.”
The other woman first met Butler in 2016, when she was an 18-year-old student and he was 36. She had attended POP vs. Jock, a charity basketball event hosted by Butler, and shared photos of the event and tagged him on Instagram. Butler direct-messaged her on Instagram and invited her out for a drink at a bar he co-owned with his wife. The woman claimed that after that meeting, Butler repeatedly sent her explicit texts and photos without her consent or reciprocation; she said she told him she was uncomfortable and texted to him, “Sorry I really hate sexting.” Butler, meanwhile, claimed that “we met up for a drink and she got quite drunk and was asking me forcefully if there was somewhere we could sleep together,” but the woman denied making an advance.
Butler noted to Pitchfork, “I didn’t realize the significance of the age difference at the time. 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.”
Two other women, who were ages 20 and 23 at the time of their alleged interactions with Butler, claimed Butler connected with them on Instagram with casual conversation that shifted to him asking them to send explicit sexual videos, and to keep his messages a secret.
One of those women said she didn’t like doing “sexual stuff” over video but “I did everything because it was him,” recalling that “I remember being so nervous and so ashamed that I did it.” Her mother said of that time period, “What really struck me was her depression. I was noticing her spiraling and more troubled than I’d seen her in a while, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.”
Butler expressed a different point of view: “I love our fans but this was an unhealthy fandom,” he claimed. “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.”
Another woman connected with Butler on Instagram after she had been front row at an Arcade Fire concert in Montreal. They developed a sexual relationship, which she claimed made her feel “incredibly low” and said that she attempted suicide over. “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,” she said.
Butler acknowledged the relationship — he said it “was 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” — and said that later, she’d made him aware that their relationship “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.”
This woman told Pitchfork of her depression, “It was absolutely related to him.”
In May, Arcade Fire released their sixth studio album, WE, which peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Three of the group’s previous albums — 2010’s The Suburbs, 2013’s Reflektor and 2017’s Everything Now — topped the Billboard 200 at No. 1.
See Butler and Chassagne’s statements, first published in full by Pitchfork, below.
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.