How did a musician go from rising star and LGBTQ role model to alleged sexual predator in under a month?
In May, Chicago DIY scene fixture Kitty Cordero-Kolin took to a closed Facebook group to accuse PWR BTTM member Ben Hopkins of sexual assault.
Immediately, social media exploded. The band Vice once called “America’s next great rock band,” was dropped by label Polyvinyl. Their tour was cancelled. Their sophomore album, Pageant was pulled from shelves and digital platforms along with the rest of their catalogue.
Cordero-Kolin wrote: “I have personally seen Ben initiate inappropriate sexual contact with people despite several ‘nos’ and without warning or consent … [and] making unwanted advances on minors despite knowing their age.
Cordero-Kolin added: “Almost every single one of Ben’s victims is queer.”
Along with the accusations, Cordero-Kolin posted a picture of Hopkins posing with a swastika drawn in sand. Hopkins addressed the photo last year when it first appeared on Twitter, in a tweet saying, “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.”
When PWR BTTM did not respond immediately to the sexual misconduct claims, the social media outcry worsened. Their initial response on Facebook, posted about a day later, denied the allegations and provided a private email address for concerned fans to send questions.
Soon after, Jezebel published an interview with an anonymous source accusing Hopkins of rape.
Hopkins denied the allegations in a May 18 Facebook post and recounted a different version of the events on the night in question.
“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 these interactions to be fully consensual, especially since our ongoing communications continued to be mutual, positive and reciprocal in nature,” Hopkins wrote. “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.”
A prominent figure in the New York City music industry tells BTRtoday that it’s been a complicated situation for everyone who has worked with PWR BTTM. “I don’t wish to discredit any victims’ experience, as a victim myself, I know the delicate situation of coming forward and addressing this head on,” she says. “That being said, social media is an open battlefield. PWR BTTM has always been an easy target and these accusations stem from a person who openly stated she wished to end the band’s career—we witnessed in real time the backlash of social media justice, it is swift and damning.”
She emphasized that sexual assault is a serious problem in the music industry but said allegations need to be pursued through proper legal channels.
“These things should be handled by real courts and real evidence, until then we really know nothing,” she says. “If these allegations prove to be true, it will break my heart, but I, of course, will stand by any victims that come forward. I can only speak from personal experience, but Ben and Liv are lovely, gracious, and kind and have never been anything less than respectful, accepting, and open-hearted to fans, crew, staff, and beyond.”
Conclusive proof has yet to surface, but the accusers are getting strong social media support. The band’s reputation is certainly tarnished. While the story is still developing, this feels like the end of the road for PWR BTTM.