The 2019 Grammys

PWR BTTM 'Strongly Contest' Recent Allegations of Sexual Assault in New Statement

Ebru Yildiz
PWR BTTM

It's been a week since punk duo PWR BTTM's world collapsed in the wake of allegations of a history of sexual assault and "unwanted advances on minors" against singer/guitarist Ben Hopkins. The silence from the band also has been deafening since it issued an initial statement on May 12 -- which drew criticism for putting the onus on potential victims to come forward -- as the duo was swiftly dropped by its label, management and tour support.

On Thursday (May 18), Hopkins and bandmate singer/drummer Liv Bruce released a new, lengthy statement in which Hopkins denied the anonymous account of their alleged assaults of a woman interviewed by Jezebel last week, saying, "I strongly contest the account put forth in Jezebel." In Hopkins' telling, the multiple interactions with the woman in question -- who Hopkins does not name or identify -- took place beginning in March 2016 after a show and included several sexual assignations Hopkins deemed consensual.

"What has transpired over the past several days has been emotionally overwhelming and difficult to comprehend," Hopkins wrote. "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."

Once Hopkins figured out who the woman was after speaking with Bruce -- who, it was also revealed, had spoken to the woman earlier this year when the allegations began making the rounds on message boards -- Hopkins reviewed their interactions. "After the show, she invited me back to her house and we eventually engaged in sex," Hopkins said of their first contact last March. "Based on the nature of our communications and our interactions with one another, I understood our interactions to be fully consensual. We stayed in touch over the course of several weeks by exchanging texts and pictures. Later, she asked if she could stay with me at my home, where we had sex several more times over the course of those days. Again, I understood these interactions to be fully consensual, especially since our ongoing communications continued to be mutual, positive and reciprocal in nature."

Hopkins claimed they did not see each other much after that, but when they did, it was "entirely pleasant," and they continued to exchange texts as recently as March of this year. "I had no indication before last week that she had any concerns about our interaction," Hopkins said. In February of this year, Hopkins said, they learned that the woman had "expressed concerns" to others about her time with the singer. 

"After the initial shock of learning about her concerns, I have tried to understand her experience of our interactions," Hopkins said. "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 hold others accountable, even when – or especially if – the individual they seek to hold accountable is me. I fully appreciate that someone’s views about the dynamics of intimate interactions can change and are not always apparent in the moment. While I am open to understanding this person’s perspective, I strongly contest the account put forth in Jezebel. I am firmly committed to consent, to communication, and to mutual expression of sexual interest. 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."

The statement ends with Hopkins addressing further concerns that have been raised over boundaries Hopkins might have crossed while greeting fans after shows, allegations Hopkins deems "incredibly shocking." Hopkins said that since the band holds the safety and well-being of fans in the most "paramount concern," Hopkins sincerely apologizes to anyone who Hopkins has made uncomfortable, pledging to work hard to have an increased awareness of boundaries in the future.

PWR BTTM’s righteous embrace of queer culture -- the band insisted that venues it played provide gender-neutral bathrooms so transgender and gender-nonconforming fans felt safe -- looked grossly hypocritical in light of the predatory allegations against Hopkins. “The way they were marketing [their shows] as a safe place -- that certainly cuts into it,” a veteran source on the indie scene told Billboard two days before the statement was released.

"The thing that blows my mind about how quickly everyone fled was, no one has pressed charges. This was a post on a message board and an anonymous interview in Jezebel," said the source. 

The story took another twist in the additional statement issued by Hopkins' bandmate, Bruce, who revealed that in February they [Bruce's preferred pronoun] reached out to the anonymous individual in the Jezebel story, who they knew "casually," after hearing that she had made "inflammatory" accusations against Hopkins 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 of any help," Bruce wrote. "Our conversation was friendly, but it ended without a plan for any specific next steps. Based upon our discussion, my understanding was that she did not want me to share her identity with Ben unless I had her explicit permission to do so, and I assured her that I would not do so."

Bruce then claims to have not discussed the issue at all with Hopkins for fear of revealing the woman's identity, adding, "I did not know how to proceed nor did I know where to seek advice about how to move forward." Once Hopkins figured out the alleged victim's identity, though, Bruce said they decided that "withholding information was no longer protecting her privacy," at which point they told Hopkins about their conversations with the woman.

The note ends with a joint statement from the group, in which they say they now realize that the email address they set up for people to privately share their information was not the best idea as it put the "onus on others to do something that only works if it is what they want." That said, they have shut down the email address -- which they have not and will not look at the contents of -- as "we have concluded that there is no viable way to do what we were trying to accomplish."

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

Read all three full statements below:

From Ben:

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.

Over the past several days, I was able to figure out who the individual was based on what I was reading and my subsequent conversations with Liv. I am not going to breach the anonymity of the person interviewed in the Jezebel article, but given the serious nature of what was published and its impact, I have to unpack the claims and provide perspective on the details within. We met the night before a show in March of 2016 and spent most of the following day together. After the show, she invited me back to her house and we eventually engaged in sex. Based on the nature of our communications and our interactions with one another, I understood our interactions to be fully consensual. We stayed in touch over the course of several weeks by exchanging texts and pictures. Later, she asked if she could stay with me at my home, where we had sex several more times over the course of those days. Again, I understood these interactions to be fully consensual, especially since our ongoing communications continued to be mutual, positive and reciprocal in nature. We did not see each other much after that but when we did it was entirely pleasant 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.

Last week I learned that, in February of this year, this person had expressed concerns to others about what had transpired between us. I fully embrace and respect this individual’s right to speak out in any manner or forum they choose, including in a Facebook post or anonymously to a Jezebel reporter. It does not diminish that person’s experience or perception. After the initial shock of learning about her concerns, I have 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 hold others accountable, even when – or especially if – the individual they seek to hold accountable is me. I fully appreciate that someone’s views about the dynamics of intimate interactions can change and are not always apparent in the moment. While I am open to understanding this person’s perspective, I strongly contest the account put forth in Jezebel. I am firmly committed to consent, to communication, and to mutual expression of sexual interest. 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. 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.

One more thing. I have seen posts about people raising concerns about having their boundaries crossed when I have greeted our fans after our shows, something Liv and I do after every performance, taking selfies and thanking folks for coming. 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 stage. If my physical contact has made anyone feel uncomfortable, I sincerely apologize and will work hard to have an increased awareness of boundaries moving forward consistent with our commitment to our fans.

From Liv:

In February, I made contact with the anonymous individual interviewed by Jezebel, someone I knew casually, 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 of any help. Our conversation was friendly, but it ended without a plan for any specific next steps. Based upon our discussion, my understanding was that she did not want me to share her identity with Ben unless I 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 that doing so would inevitably reveal her identity. 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.

From PWR BTTM:

As some of you know, we set up a separate email address back in mid-May so that anyone with information relevant to the situation that was then unfolding could privately share what they knew. At the time we thought it was the right thing to do. We now see that we were putting the onus on others to do something that only works if it is what they want. 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).

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