A famous ballerina and her instructor husband have been accused of restraining then sexually abusing their former protégé in a gun-filled room.
Sage Humphries and another professional dancer, Gina Menichino, on July 28 filed a civil complaint in US District Court in Nevada, accusing Mitchell Taylor Button of sexually and emotionally abusing the two women years apart.
Button is the husband of Dusty Button, Boston Ballet’s former principal dancer who now has a large following on social media. She has also been named as an alleged predator in Humphries and Menichino’s suit, but is not listed as a defendant.
Former Boston Ballet star Dusty Button (left) has been implicated in a federal lawsuit accusing her husband, Mitchell Button (right), of sexually abusing young dancers, including a child
Boston Ballet dancer Sage Humphries (left) and professional dancer Gina Menichino (right) together filed the lawsuit against Mitchell Button
Humphries, now 23, claims Mitchell repeatedly sexually assaulted her in 2017, including with the help of his prima ballerina wife. They deny her claims
The lawsuit alleges that on multiple occasions, Dusty held down Humphries so she could not move while her husband violently penetrated the young woman without her consent, including in her sleep.
In one instance, as alleged in the complaint, the Buttons ordered Humphries to don a head-to-toe spandex suit, tied her to a table in a room filled with guns and sexually assaulted her as she screamed and cried.
Through their attorney, the Buttons denied the allegations detailed in the lawsuit, calling them ‘false and fraudulent.’
Humphries, now 23, told the New York Times in an interview that the Buttons had ‘complete control’ over her while she was a young dancer at Boston Ballet II, the company’s apprenticeship program.
The complaint states that Humphries, who was new to Boston at the time and had no family or friends in the city, first met Dusty Button, then a world-renowned prima ballerina, and her dance instructor husband in 2016.
The Buttons befriended the young dancer in early 2017 and soon began inviting her over to their home, where Humphries was expected to drink heavily, according to the complaint.
The 19-page federal complaint does not name Dusty as a defendant but as a ‘non-party co-conspirator’ and implicates her in some of the alleged abuse targeting Humphries.
It is alleged in the explosive complaint that ‘the Buttons abuse their positions of power and prestige in the dance community to garner the loyalty and trust of young dancers. The Buttons then exploit those relationships to coerce sexual acts by means of force and fraud.’
Dusty, pictured furthest left, departed from the Boston Ballet in 2017. She allegedly held down Humphries while her husband sexually penetrated her without the woman’s consent
Humphries claims in the lawsuit the Buttons had complete control over her and isolated her from family and friends. She was forced to live with the couple, who together would sexually abuse her, according to the complaint
‘The Buttons also began to insist that Sage sleep at their apartment on a regular basis,’ the lawsuit alleges. ‘The Buttons instructed Sage to wear their clothes and style her hair to match Dusty’s hair.’
Mitchell allegedly told Humphries that if she agreed to hand over control of her social media accounts to him, including her passwords and access to her text messages and email, he would make her as famous as his wife.
‘If Sage ever attempted to distance herself or disobey the Buttons, they would threaten to revoke their financial support and sabotage her career,’ the complaint alleges.
One evening, the Buttons and Humphries were lying on a mattress together watching a movie when Mitchell sexually assaulted his young protégé after his wife dozed off, according to the complaint.
‘Any time Sage attempted to develop other friendships and spend time apart from the Buttons, the Buttons would become enraged,’ the lawsuit alleges.
On one occasion, Mitchell allegedly forced Humphries to preform oral sex on him as punishment for having lunch with a group of women.
The lawsuit alleges that the Buttons insisted that Humphries ‘prioritize them over her family,’ and even joined her on a trip to California to visit her parents ‘she she could not be alone with her family.’
Humphries was eventually rescued by her parents, who flew her home to California
After returning to Boston, the sexual abuse intensified, according to the lawsuit.
‘One evening, Sage went to the Buttons’ apartment after rehearsal, and the apartment was completely dark,’ reads the complaint. ‘Dusty and [Mitchell] 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.’
After that incident, Mitchell allegedly began having sex with his protégé ‘whenever he pleased,’ including sometimes while she was sleeping.
‘[Mitchell] regularly shoved Sage to the ground or on the bed and violently penetrated her without her consent,’ claims the complaint. ‘On several occasions, Dusty held Sage down while [Mitchell] penetrated her so that Sage could not move.’
During sex, the dance instructor allegedly would ‘choke, slap and pull’ Humphries’ hair, leaving her covered in bruises.
‘The Buttons also regularly used painful sex toys on Sage and would tie Sage up in order to have sex with her,’ the lawsuit contends. ‘Sage never consented to these violent sex acts.’
By May 2017, the Buttons allegedly forced Humphries to live with them full time. They did not charge her rent and paid for her meals and personal expenses, rendering her financially dependent on the couple.
‘If Sage ever attempted to distance herself or disobey the Buttons, they would threaten to revoke their financial support and sabotage her career,’ according to the lawsuit.
Eventually, Humphries’ parents became concerned with her living situation and forced her to return home.
Mitchell continued communicating with Humphries on Snapchat. At one point, he allegedly told her he wanted to rape the woman and leave her to die in a warehouse, and also threatened to travel to California and slit her father’s throat.
In August 2017, Humphries sought and received abuse protection orders against the Buttons.
The Boston Ballet has issued a statement expressing support for Humphries, who is still part of the company.
‘Boston Ballet supports Sage Humphries who is bravely coming forward, sharing her experience to protect others, and seeking accountability and justice,’ the statement read.
According to the dance company, Dusty Button’s employment with the Boston Ballet was terminated in May 2017.
The federal lawsuit also details allegations of sexual abuse from a decade ago targeting Mitchell Button’s former dance student Gina Menichino.
According to the complaint, Button, who at the time went by the name Taylor Moore and worked as a dance instructor at a studio in Tampa, Florida, began grooming Menichino for abuse when she was 13 years old and he was 25.
‘Taylor took a special interest in Gina and would single her out for special attention and opportunities in dance class, such as allowing her to assistant teach his dance classes,’ alleges the complaint.
Menichino, a dancer from New Jersey, claims that when she was 13 years old and attending a dance studio in Florida in 2010, Mitchell Button sexually assaulted her
On two separate occasions in 2010, Button allegedly sexually assaulted Menichino while the two were sharing a blanket while watching a movie with other dance students.
Button then began regularly ‘sexting’ the young girl, including sending her shirtless photos of himself and videos showing him pleasuring himself, the suit claims. He also solicited similar content from Menichino.
‘Taylor used his position of power and authority over Gina to force her to comply with his sexual demands,’ according to the lawsuit.
If the 13-year-old resisted her teacher’s sexual advances, Button allegedly threatened to hurt her dance career.
‘The whole game was to keep him happy,’ Menichino, now 25, told the Times. ‘Don’t get him angry, or I was unworthy and I would lose my dance career.’
Ken Swartz, the attorney representing the Buttons, said in a statement to the paper that his clients ‘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.’