Note: This article contains descriptions of alleged sexual misconduct and references to suicide.
Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler is facing allegations of sexual misconduct by multiple women. In a lengthy Pitchfork report by music journalist Marc Hogan, four people – who were between the ages of 18 and 23 at the time of the interactions, which allegedly took place between 2015 and 2020 – have accused Butler of having inappropriate sexual relationships with them.
In a written statement to Pitchfork, Butler (via crisis public relations expert Risa Heller) admitted to having extramarital relationships, but said that the encounters were consensual and not initiated by him. “I have never touched a woman against her will, and any implication that I have is simply false,” Butler said. “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,” he added. “Life is filled with tremendous pain and error, and I never want to be part of causing someone else’s pain. 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.” You can read the full statement below.
Butler’s wife and Arcade Fire bandmate Régine Chassagne also provided a statement, saying, “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.”
The story details a relationship with Lily (a pseudonym), who is gender-fluid and uses they/them pronouns. Lily said that they met Butler at a concert in Montreal at the start of 2015 while they were 21 and studying art. However, after they met again for dinner, Butler allegedly stuck his hands into Lily’s pants without consent. A couple of days later, Butler showed up at Lily’s apartment, where, Lily claims, 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.” Responding to the alleged incident, Butler said:
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].
Also included in the story is an allegation by a woman who is identified by the pseudonym Stella, who claims that Butler began repeatedly sending her explicit texts without consent or reciprocation after they met when she was 18. She also alleges that Butler sent her unsolicited photos of his genitals. Addressing his 18-year age difference with Stella, Butler commented: “I didn’t realise 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 more women, referred to by the pseudonyms Sarah and Fiona, told Pitchfork that Butler started messaging on Instagram when Fiona was 20 and Sarah was 23, making casual conversation before asking for them to share explicit videos.
“I did everything because it was him,” Sarah said. “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.”
In response, Butler characterized Sarah’s behaviour as “unhealthy fandom,” saying that he “became increasingly uncomfortable” with her presence and “had to tell security to make sure she didn’t get too close.” Sarah claims that Butler’s security never interacted with her.
Fiona’s relationship with Butler, who reached out to her following an Arcade Fire concert in Montreal where she was in the front row, also went from online to in-person. According to Butler, “This 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.”
After an in-person sexual encounter in Vancouver the night before an Arcade Fire concert in that city, Fiona says she felt “incredibly low” and attempted suicide by swallowing a large quantity of extra-strength Tylenol. “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 responded by acknowledging that he knew about the suicide attempt, but claims Fiona “repeated it was unrelated to me, she was suffering from mental illness, to which I am very sympathetic.” Fiona told Pitchfork of her depression and suicide attempt: “It was absolutely related to him.”
In July 2020, Stella publicly accused Butler in an Instagram post in which she called him a “sexual predator.” “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,” she wrote. “He would not leave me alone and texted me from different numbers after I blocked him. Never once asked for my age either.”
After seeing Stella’s post, Sarah reached out to Stella and uploaded a screenshot of the post to Reddit, where Lily and Fiona, as well as another woman who allegedly had a consensual interaction with Butler, responded in the comments. Another woman also detailed an in-person sexual encounter with Butler that she ultimately felt blurred the boundaries of consent due to the power dynamic between them. “It’s this really complicated thing,” she told Pitchfork. “Yes, it was consensual, but also, there’s a side to it that was almost like, I couldn’t say no.”
Win Butler’s statement:
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:
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.