Warning: this story contains graphic details of alleged sexual assaults.
Five ballet dancers have now raised shocking child sexual abuse allegations against former Boston Ballet star Dusty Button and her husband, Mitchell Taylor Button. The couple stands accused of working together to “groom” multiple young dancers, then exploiting, threatening, and sexually assaulting those girls on multiple occasions.
Boston Ballet dancers Sage Humphries and Gina Menichino filed a federal lawsuit in Nevada last July alleging that Mitchell Taylor Button (“Taylor Button”) manipulated and assaulted them. Humphries and Menichino, along with several other plaintiffs, filed an amended complaint on Sept. 23 that was made public Wednesday. The amended complaint names Dusty Button as her husband’s co-defendant, and adds new and shocking allegations to the litigation.
Dusty Button danced with the Boston Ballet from 2012 to 2017, and remains a well-known figure in the dance community. She has been featured in multiple national magazines, is sponsored by Red Bull and several dance wear companies, and maintains a sizable online following. Her husband Taylor acts as her manager.
The new complaint (which entirely supersedes the July filing) alleges that the Buttons “exploited their position of power and influence in the dance world to sexually abuse young dancers across the country.” The plaintiffs explain that, “A culture of harassment and abuse permeates the dance world at all levels, including the most prestigious dance institutions.”
The court pleadings allege graphic and long-term sexual violence, beginning with Taylor Button’s pattern of “grooming” young girls by sending sexually explicit text messages, making sexual comments, using the reward of professional dance opportunities to leverage control over the girls, and forcing the girls to remain isolated from friends and family.
Plaintiff Menichino asserts that in 2010, Taylor Button forcefully performed oral sex on her when she was just 13 years old, then forced her to perform oral sex on him, and penetrated her with his hands on multiple occasions. Plaintiff Rosie DeAngelo similarly alleged that when she was a high-school student, Taylor Button forcefully sexually assaulted her on multiple occasions, later threatening DeAngelo to ensure secrecy. Danielle Gutierrez alleged that Taylor Button raped her when she was 17 years old, then carried on a “relationship” with her during her freshman year in college. During that time, Gutierrez says Taylor Button “physically abused Danielle at least three times a week, including by punching and kicking Danielle in the stomach, and squeezing Danielle until she could not breathe and her nose bled.” Gutierrez explains that her fear of reporting the abuse intensified when on one occasion she witnessed “Taylor pull[ing] an AK-47 on another man in front of Danielle.”
Per the complaint, “In December 2010, Centerstage dancers and their parents began to discuss Taylor’s behavior and the rumors that he had physically abused students and engaged in sexual relationships with minors.” Shortly thereafter, “Taylor fled to London, England,” then telling former students that he wished to marry his former girlfriend, Dusty Button, who was a student at the Royal Ballet School in London.
According to the complaint, the Buttons systematically used their work with minors to “groom and abuse young dancers,” by pressuring children to travel, and using emotional manipulation to exert control over their lives. The complaint details:
For instance, the Buttons pressured the child to travel and share a bed with them, insisted on exercising control over her social media accounts, instructed her to dress and behave in a manner similar to Dusty, and, on one occasion, Dusty insisted on performing a lengthy touching session on the child, which she called a “massage.”
The Buttons also attempted to isolate the child from her family, including by telling the child that her mother is unable to advance her dance career, and that she should live with the Buttons as their adopted daughter instead. If the child or her mother defied the Buttons’ wishes, the Buttons would emotionally abuse the child and threaten to cease assisting her in pursuing her professional dance aspirations.
A plaintiff known only as “Jane Doe 100” alleges that Dusty Button held her down while Taylor Button performed oral sex on the victim raped her, even taking photos and videos of the alleged assault. “At one point,” reads the complaint, “Dusty had a gun in her hand. Jane 100 was terrified.”
Sage Humphries alleged that the Buttons sexually assaulted her on multiple occasions, “forb[ade] Sage from developing other friendships, and … from speaking with her family.” One particularly disturbing event was described in the complaint:
One evening, Sage went to the Buttons’ apartment after rehearsal, and the apartment was completely dark. Dusty and Taylor demanded that Sage put on a spandex suit that covered her entire body, including her mouth and eyes, and left only her nose and ears exposed. Dusty led Sage into a room of the Buttons’ apartment that had an arsenal of guns hanging on the wall. Sage told the Buttons she was scared. They instructed her to lie down on a table, and they tied up her arms and legs so she was unable to move. The Buttons then sexually assaulted Sage. Sage began sobbing and screaming, begging the Buttons to untie her. The Buttons told her she was being weak and stupid. Soon thereafter, Dusty and Taylor forced Sage to have sexual intercourse with Taylor. Dusty watched, and Sage cried the entire time. After that, the Buttons began having sex with Sage whenever they pleased. Sometimes Taylor would penetrate Sage while she was sleeping.
Together, the plaintiffs raise 37 independent types of legal claims against the Buttons, and ask the court to award them compensatory and punitive damages. Attorney Sigrid McCawley, who represents the plaintiffs, said in an email statement that “Taylor and Dusty Button have preyed upon the vulnerable.”
“They can no longer use the dance world and their professions to perpetrate criminal behavior against young girls aspiring to become great dancers,” she continued. “Brave women are now coming and saying they must be stopped. We are grateful their voices are being heard. “
Lawyers for the Buttons have denied the allegations, telling the New York Times in July that “Taylor and Dusty Button categorically deny these baseless claims and they look forward to the opportunity through court proceedings to disprove all of the plaintiffs’ false and fraudulent allegations.”
In response to the amended complaint, attorney Marc Randazza said that the Buttons’ position “remains the same,” and that “We look forward to clearing both of their names in court.”
Read the full complaint here:
[image via Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images]
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