Jimmy Bennett, Asia Argento’s alleged sexual assault victim, has made his first public statement since a report from The New York Times brought his allegations to light.
Bennett, 22, accused the Italian actress/director and #MeToo activist of sexually assaulting him in a hotel room in 2013, when he was only 17 and Argento was 37, The Times reported on Sunday. The two later reached a financial agreement, with Argento agreeing to pay Bennett $380,000, according to the report.
Days after the Times’ report, however, Argento denied having ever had a sexual relationship with Bennett, and implied that his accusations against her stemmed from his own financial problems. It was partly her late boyfriend Anthony Bourdain’s decision to meet his demands rather than risk further controversy, she claimed.
In a statement to The New York Times published on Wednesday, Bennett spoke out for the first time since his story became public. After applauding those who have shared their own stories of sexual assault, he explained why he did not come forward sooner, and what eventually inspired his decision to do so.
“I did not initially speak out about my story because I chose to handle it in private with the person who wronged me. My trauma resurfaced as she came out as a victim herself. I have not made a public statement in the past days and hours because I was ashamed and afraid to be part of the public narrative,” Bennett’s statement read.
“I was underage when the event took place, and I tried to seek justice in a way that made sense to me at the time because I was not ready to deal with the ramifications of my story becoming public,” his statement continued. “At the time I believed there was still a stigma to being in the situation as a male in our society. I didn’t think that people would understand the event that took place from the eyes of a teenage boy.”
“I have had to overcome many adversities in my life, and this is another that I will deal with, in time. I would like to move past this event in my life, and today I choose to move forward, no longer in silence,” he concluded.
Argento became one of the leaders of the #MeToo movement after coming forward with her own accusations against film executive Harvey Weinstein last year. Argento’s visibility as an anti-sexual harassment activist made Bennett’s story especially troubling, and has launched a social media debate regarding accountability within the #MeToo movement.
Argento denied Bennett’s claims in a statement on Tuesday, which reads, in part, “I am deeply shocked and hurt having read the news that is absolutely false. I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett.”
Bennett, a former child actor, once worked with Argento on the 2004 film “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things.” Bennett played the son of Argento’s character, and the two kept in contact for years, even referring to each other as mother and son on social media.
Sunday’s New York Times report referred to the existence of a series of photos that were taken immediately following the alleged 2013 sexual assault. TMZ published a photo on Wednesday that appears to show Argento and Bennett lying in bed together, seemingly topless, with their heads close together.
[Photo: Jimmy Bennett attends the premiere party of Disney XD’s “Lab Rats: Elite Force” on March 2, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. By Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images; Asia Argento attends the 2018 Women In The World Summit at Lincoln Center on April 12, 2018 in New York City. By Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images]