A fifth person has come forward with misconduct allegations against Arcade Fire’s Win Butler, saying he was “emotionally abusive, manipulative, and toxic” during their three-year relationship, Pitchfork reports.
The new allegations, brought by a woman using the pseudonym Sabina, come several months after four people accused Butler of sexual misconduct between 2016 and 2020. Three of his accusers said Butler used his fame to pressure them into sexual encounters; a fourth said Butler sexually assaulted them on two occasions, including once sticking his hand into their pants without consent.
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Butler (who has been married to Arcade Fire bandmate Régine Chassagne since 2003) admitted to the extramarital relationships but said all of the sexual encounters were “consensual.”
Sabina, for her part, described her relationship as “abusive” and rooted in a clear power imbalance: She was 22 when she met Butler, and he was 35; he was a world-famous musician, and she had just left a strict religious group and moved to Montreal, where she was taking university classes and working at a cafe.
“It was an ongoing abusive relationship,” she said. “Emotionally abusive, manipulative, toxic, and using his power dynamic to exploit my body at times that were convenient for him. He met me when I was so vulnerable.”
A rep for Butler was not immediately available to return Rolling Stone’s request for comment.
Sabina claimed she met Butler in 2015 at the cafe where she worked, and the two soon began talking and texting. Sabina was dating someone at the time and said Butler would occasionally ask her if she and her boyfriend had broken up yet. Eventually, Sabina and Butler kissed while out for a drink one night, an experience she described as “jarring” in a diary entry at the time. Still, she said she felt attracted to Butler, and their relationship progressed, eventually becoming sexual.
Echoing some of the allegations made by his previous accusers, Sabina said Butler frequently turned their text conversations toward sex and asked for explicit photos. In other diary entries from the time, she wrote about her attraction to Butler but also expressed concerns that she was “just a body” to him.
Sabina acknowledged that, during their sexual encounters, she never told Butler “No,” nor did she try to stop him. Because of that, she said Butler probably believed the sex they had was consensual. However, she explained why she believed it was actually more complicated than that and clouded by the power imbalance in their relationship.
“In general, it was an abusive dynamic,” she said. “It was really aggressive, and I felt like I just had to do what he said. I was not really comfortable with some of the things he was asking me to do, but doing them anyway. And that is ultimately dehumanizing.”
Additionally, Sabina said she was interested in pursuing a deeper relationship with Butler, but he appeared only interested in sex, whether in-person encounters or asking her to send photos or “engage in sexting when he wanted it to happen.” When Sabina didn’t respond to his requests, she said, “He would make you feel so bad about it. You’re being cut off from contact if you don’t agree to sexual favors.”
Sabina also described — and provided evidence of — Butler’s frequent texting and requests for sex, as well as nude photographs of himself that he sent unsolicited. In one instance from late August 2017 (not long after Butler canceled a planned DJ set at an event Sabina helped organize), Sabina sent Butler a long message about some of the challenges she was facing in her life and how his fixation on sex made her feel like wasn’t “even a person.”
Butler reportedly replied, “Thanks for the note,” then spent the night telling Sabina he wanted to see her. At one point, he sent two photos, one of which reportedly showed him masturbating.
“I hadn’t asked for it at all,” Sabina said of the photographs. “It just felt really, really disrespectful and scary and gross … It felt like that specific encounter was crossing a line that he shouldn’t have crossed, and it was shocking. I really feel like he has more to apologize for. He never took accountability for that.” (Butler did reportedly send a text apologizing for the photographs — and also continued to ask Sabina if he could see her.)
Sabina and Butler continued to see each other occasionally for about another year, their relationship finally ending in June 2018. Sabina, however, said that she regretted not breaking it off after Butler sent those photographs.
“If you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, it makes you feel better to tell yourself that this was all for something, that their outbursts were mistakes and that you meant something to the abuser, that you still hold value in their eyes,” she said. “But the only value I ever held for him was performing sexual acts whenever he wanted.”
Following the initial allegations against Butler, Arcade Fire went ahead with their tour in support of their most recent album, We (planned openers Feist and Beck, however, both dropped off the trek). We was also just nominated for a Grammy for Best Alternative Album.
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