PWR BTTM Respond to Sexual Assault Accusations

Rising rock duo PWR BTTM responded to and denied allegations of sexual assault leveled against member Ben Hopkins. The accusations first surfaced on a closed Facebook group for the Chicago DIY scene earlier this month, but quickly spread on social media. Shortly after, an anonymous woman described the alleged sexual assault in an interview with Jezebel. Following the outcry, PWR BTTM’s tour was canceled, a touring member quit the band and their label Polyvinyl removed their second album, Pageantfrom all streaming services. Father/Daughter Records, who released the band’s first album, Ugly Cherries, also cut ties with the band, pulling that record from streaming services as well.

In a lengthy statement, Hopkins wrote: “What has transpired over the past several days has been emotionally overwhelming and difficult to comprehend. Last Thursday, I learned that an anonymous individual had made an allegation of sexual assault against me. This allegation was devastating to me as it is contrary to the intentional way I seek to interact with those around me. As I digested the allegations, I tried to figure out who the individual might be so that I could try to reconcile what I had read with my memory of any particular sexual interaction. I’ve waited to respond to the Jezebel article because the statements made about me by the anonymous source did not line up with any sexual experience I have ever had.”

Hopkins was “able to figure out who the individual was” based on news reports and conversations with bandmate Liv Bruce. Hopkins described a lengthy relationship with the alleged accuser, saying, “I understood our interactions to be fully consensual” and “we continued to exchange texts, including as recently as March of this year. I had no indication before last week that she had any concerns about our interaction.”

Hopkins fully acknowledged the accuser’s claims and perspective, but contested the account put forward in the Jezebel interview. “The accusations in Jezebel directly conflict with my experience, as it is not my practice to engage in sexual contact without protection, without discussing the issue with my partner, or to engage in the other conduct alleged in the Jezebel article,” they said. “That being said, in keeping with my commitment to my principles, I believe it is my responsibility to be accountable to this individual’s perspective and to honor it accordingly.”

Along with the Jezebel interview, Hopkins addressed various social media comments that arose after the initial accusation, in which fans described instances during which the band allegedly violated their personal boundaries after shows. “This is, again, incredibly shocking news to me, as the safety and well-being of PWR BTTM fans is the most paramount concern I have as a member of this band on and off the stage,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins’ bandmate, Liv Bruce, also penned a short statement addressing concerns that they knew about the allegations against Hopkins months before they were public, but remained silent. Bruce had spoken with Hopkins’ accuser, but wrote that her identity would be protected and Hopkins would not be informed of the incident.

“After our conversation, I wanted to discuss with Ben the issues she had raised, but I quickly realized that doing so would inevitably reveal her identity,” Bruce said. “I did not know how to proceed nor did I know where to seek advice about how to move forward. After Ben ascertained the individual’s identity on Friday, I decided that my withholding information was no longer protecting her privacy and I told Ben about the conversation she and I had.”

In a joint statement, PWR BTTM also apologized for how they initially responded to the accusations. In a Facebook post, the group announced that they were setting up an e-mail address people could contact if they had information about the assault. The band promised Hopkins would not have access to the e-mail and that it would monitored by a mediator. However, many expressed concern and outrage, specifically that the band was sloughing off responsibility and shifting it to survivors.

“We now see that we were putting the onus on others to do something that only works if it is what they want,” PWR BTTM said. “We have concluded that there is no viable way to do what we were trying to accomplish, with the result that we are going to shut that email address down (we have not and will not look at any emails that may have been sent there to date).”

PWR BTTM closed their statement by thanking fans, friends and family. Though they did not address their canceled tour or pulled album, they wrote, “We love playing music, we love sharing music with others and we want nothing more than to be back performing together soon.”

Ben Hopkins’ Full Statement
What has transpired over the past several days has been emotionally overwhelming and difficult tocomprehend. Last Thursday, I learned that an anonymous individual had made an allegation of sexualassault against me. This allegation was devastating to me as it is contrary to the intentional way I seek tointeract with those around me. As I digested the allegations, I tried to figure out who the individual mightbe so that I could try to reconcile what I had read with my memory of any particular sexual interaction.I’ve waited to respond to the Jezebel article because the statements made about me by the anonymoussource did not line up with any sexual experience I have ever had. 

Over the past several days, I was able to figure out who the individual was based on what I was readingand my subsequent conversations with Liv. I am not going to breach the anonymity of the personinterviewed in the Jezebel article, but given the serious nature of what was published and its impact, Ihave to unpack the claims and provide perspective on the details within. We met the night before a showin March of 2016 and spent most of the following day together. After the show, she invited me back toher house and we eventually engaged in sex. Based on the nature of our communications and ourinteractions with one another, I understood our interactions to be fully consensual. We stayed in touchover the course of several weeks by exchanging texts and pictures. Later, she asked if she could stay withme at my home, where we had sex several more times over the course of those days. Again, I understoodthese interactions to be fully consensual, especially since our ongoing communications continued to bemutual, positive and reciprocal in nature. We did not see each other much after that but when we did itwas entirely pleasant and we continued to exchange texts, including as recently as March of this year. Ihad no indication before last week that she had any concerns about our interaction. 

Last week I learned that, in February of this year, this person had expressed concerns to others about whathad transpired between us. I fully embrace and respect this individual’s right to speak out in any manneror forum they choose, including in a Facebook post or anonymously to a Jezebel reporter. It does notdiminish that person’s experience or perception. After the initial shock of learning about her concerns, Ihave tried to understand her experience of our interactions. It would be antithetical to my values to attack,blame, or shame someone who is using the power of call-out culture to name their experience and holdothers accountable, even when – or especially if – the individual they seek to hold accountable is me. Ifully appreciate that someone’s views about the dynamics of intimate interactions can change and are notalways apparent in the moment. While I am open to understanding this person’s perspective, I stronglycontest the account put forth in Jezebel. I am firmly committed to consent, to communication, and tomutual expression of sexual interest. The accusations in Jezebel directly conflict with my experience, as itis not my practice to engage in sexual contact without protection, without discussing the issue with mypartner, or to engage in the other conduct alleged in the Jezebel article. That being said, in keeping withmy commitment to my principles, I believe it is my responsibility to be accountable to this individual’sperspective and to honor it accordingly. 

One more thing. I have seen posts about people raising concerns about having their boundaries crossedwhen I have greeted our fans after our shows, something Liv and I do after every performance, takingselfies and thanking folks for coming. This is, again, incredibly shocking news to me, as the safety andwell-being of PWR BTTM fans is the most paramount concern I have as a member of this band on and off stage. If my physical contact has made anyone feel uncomfortable, I sincerely apologize and will workhard to have an increased awareness of boundaries moving forward consistent with our commitment toour fans.

Liv Bruce’s Full Statement
In February, I made contact with the anonymous individual interviewed by Jezebel, someone I knewcasually, after hearing that she had made inflammatory accusations about Ben in a private online forum.My intent in reaching out was to learn more and to make myself available in the event that I could be ofany help. Our conversation was friendly, but it ended without a plan for any specific next steps. Basedupon our discussion, my understanding was that she did not want me to share her identity with Ben unlessI had her explicit permission to do so, and I assured her that I would not do so. 

After our conversation, I wanted to discuss with Ben the issues she had raised but I quickly realized thatdoing so would inevitably reveal her identity. I did not know how to proceed nor did I know where toseek advice about how to move forward. 

After Ben ascertained the individual’s identity on Friday I decided that my withholding information wasno longer protecting her privacy and I told Ben about the conversation she and I had. 

PWR BTTM’s Full Statement
As some of you know, we set up a separate email address back in mid-May so that anyone withinformation relevant to the situation that was then unfolding could privately share what they knew. At thetime we thought it was the right thing to do. We now see that we were putting the onus on others to dosomething that only works if it is what they want. We have concluded that there is no viable way to dowhat we were trying to accomplish, with the result that we are going to shut that email address down (wehave not and will not look at any emails that may have been sent there to date). 

Finally, to our fans, our friends, our family and those who have supported us unfailingly and whocontinue to support us unfailingly: thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Having enjoyed theenthusiastic support of so many incredible people throughout our music careers has been a blessing. Welove playing music, we love sharing music with others and we want nothing more than to be backperforming together soon. 

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