Arcade Fire’s Win Butler faces new misconduct claim over alleged ‘abusive’ relationship

Arcade Fire performing in Milan - Credit: Sergione Infuso/Corbis/Getty Images

Arcade Fire performing in Milan – Credit: Sergione Infuso/Corbis/Getty Images

A fifth person has filed 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 charges, filed by a woman using the pseudonym Sabina, come 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 having sexual encounters; a fourth said Butler sexually assaulted them twice, including once without putting his hand down their pants.

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Butler (who has been married to Arcade Fire bandmate Régine Chassagne since 2003) admitted to the extramarital affairs, but said all 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-renowned musician, and she had just left a strictly religious group and moved to Montreal, where she attended college and worked in a cafe.

“It was an ongoing abusive relationship,” she said. “Emotionally abusive, manipulative, toxic and using his dynamic power to exploit my body at times that suited him. He met me when I was so vulnerable.”

A representative for Butler was not immediately available to return Rolling stone‘s request for comment.

Sabina claimed she met Butler in 2015 at the café 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 over drinks one night, an experience she described as “shocking” in a diary at the time. Still, she said she was attracted to Butler, and their relationship progressed and eventually turned sexual.

Echoing some of his previous accusers’ allegations, Sabina said Butler often focused their text conversations on sex and asked for explicit photos. In other diary entries of the time, she wrote of her attraction to Butler, but also expressed concern that she was “just a body” to him.

Sabina acknowledged that she never told Butler “No” during their sexual encounters, nor did she try to stop him. That’s why she said Butler probably believed the sex was consensual. However, she explained why she thought it was actually more complicated than that and clouded by the power imbalance in their relationship.

“Overall it was an abusive dynamic,” she said. “It was really aggressive and I felt like I just had to do what he said. I wasn’t really comfortable with some of the things he asked me to do, but I did them anyway. And that is ultimately degrading.”

In addition, Sabina said she was interested in pursuing a deeper relationship with Butler, but he only seemed interested in sex, whether it be face-to-face or asking her to send pictures or “participating in sexting when he that wanted”. When Sabina didn’t respond to his requests, she said, “He’d make you feel so bad about it.” You will be cut off from contact if you do not consent to sexual favors.”

Sabina also described – and provided evidence of – Butler’s frequent texts and requests for sex, as well as nude photos 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 lengthy message about some of the challenges she’s faced in her life and how his fixation on sex led her to feel like it wasn’t “even a person.”

Butler reportedly replied, “Thanks for the note,” and spent the night telling Sabina he wanted to see her. At one point, he sent two photos, one of which allegedly masturbated him.

“I didn’t ask for it at all,” Sabina said of the photos. “It just felt very, very disrespectful and scary and rude… It felt like that particular encounter crossed a line he shouldn’t have crossed, and it was shocking. I really feel like he has more to apologize for. He was never accountable for that.” (Butler reportedly texted apologizing for the photos — and also kept asking Sabina if he could see her.)

Sabina and Butler continued to see each other off and on for about another year, their relationship finally ending in June 2018. However, Sabina said she regretted not breaking off the relationship after Butler sent those photos.

“If you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship, you feel better telling yourself that this was all for something, that their outbursts were mistakes and that you meant something to the abuser, that you still have value in their eyes,” she said. “But the only value I ever had for him was to perform sex acts whenever he wanted.”

After the initial allegations against Butler, Arcade Fire continued their tour in support of their most recent album, We (scheduled openers Feist and Beck, however, both dropped the draft). We was also just nominated for a Grammy for Best Alternative Album.

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