On May 11 the musician Ben Hopkins, one half of the rock duo PWR BTTM, was accused in a Facebook post of sexual assault and predatory behavior. The accusation appeared in the closed Facebook group DIY Chicago, but the post was widely circulated on social media Thursday.
The poster Kitty Cordero-Kolin, who frequents the DIY scene in Chicago, accused Hopkins of being a “known sexual predator” who has perpetrated multiple assaults, bullied other people in the queer community, and has made unwanted advances towards underage minors. “U should avoid going to their shows/boycott their music/not allow them in safe spaces,” they wrote. “I have personally seen Ben initiate inappropriate sexual contact with people despite several ‘nos’ and without warning or consent.”
PWR BTTM, which formed in 2013 while members Hopkins and Liv Bruce were students at Bard College, is a queer rock band with both members preferring gender neutral pronouns. Their music has been celebrated by outlets like NPR, The New York Times, and Rolling Stone and their sophomore album Pageant is out on Polyvinyl Records on May 12.
Cordero-Kolin told Jezebel in a phone call Thursday that they began receiving stories about Hopkins’s behavior from people in local queer communities and DIY groups after posting about a photo that surfaced last December of Hopkins drawing a Swastika in the sand on a beach. “To anyone who was hurt by this image, know that it was me as a stupid kid and not who I am today, and I am so so sorry,” the band tweeted in December 2016.
In addition to hearing stories like the ones Coredo-Kolin alluded to in their post, they said they witnessed Hopkins kiss Coredo-Kolin’s date without consent at a 2016 show at The Sinclair in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
On May 11, the duo responded to the allegations on Twitter:
In an interview with Jezebel, a person we’ll call Jen* who wishes to remain anonymous described being assaulted while intoxicated by Hopkins after a PWR BTTM show last year. Jen said she initially thought they seemed “like an okay person... because of what they preach,” referring to the band’s vocal interest in social justice. After Hopkins took Jen home they allegedly made sexually aggressive advances and started having sex with her without permission while also refusing to wear protection. Later, while she was asleep, Jen said she woke up to Hopkins trying to have sex with her again.
“I just felt totally powerless in the situation, first due to physicality because they are so much bigger than me in size and also social status,” she told Jezebel. “I was trying to be okay with whatever was going on.”
Hopkins continued to send Jen nude photos after the assault. Jen said she didn’t initially process her experience with Hopkins as rape after being assaulted in high-school. “In high school I was blamed, told it was my fault, shouldn’t have gone to this place,” she told Jezebel. “I have a lot of that internalized, unfortunately.” A month later, she said, Hopkins assaulted her again. After talking about the experience with a few musicians and friends, Jen said she realized she was assaulted and, like Coredo-Kolin, gradually began to hear more stories about Hopkins’s predatory behavior.
In the duo’s statement, they wrote that the allegations “come as a surprise.” Early this year Hopkins’s bandmate Liv Bruce reached out to Jen after “hearing stories,” and she told Bruce “everything” about her assault. “Their response to me was, I don’t think Ben knows what they did, maybe you should reach out to them,” Jen said. “Then they never spoke out about it again and continued being in the band.”
“The statement that they made, I know for a fact, is an actual lie because I know they did know,” she said. “The statement they made is 100 percent false.”
Hopkins and Bruce have both declined to comment on the allegations.
In an email to Jezebel on Friday, PWR BTTM’s manager Jeanette Wall said she did not know about the assault claims prior to yesterday, writing that she has “not been contacted by anyone close to the victim or been made aware of any details listed here.”
Update, 3:33 PM: Salty Artist Management has announced in a tweet that they will no longer be working with PWR BTTM. The band has also been dropped from the line-up of Hopscotch Festival. The bands Tancred and iji have also dropped out of the PWR BTTM tour.
Update, 5/13/17: PWR BTTM’s label Polyvinyl has posted a statement on Facebook.
*Name has been changed
Correction: A prior version of this post referred to Nnamdi Ogbonnaya as, simply, Ogbonnaya. It also misgendered Cordero-Kolin, who uses they/them pronouns. Jezebel regrets the error.