American actor and musician Jimmy Bennett, who has alleged that he was sexually assaulted by Asia Argento in 2013, when he was 17 years old, released a statement on Wednesday explaining why he had not made the accusations public. The alleged incident was revealed in a New York Times report on August 19.
“I did not initially speak out about my story because I chose to handle it in private with the person who wronged me,” Bennett said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “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.”
Argento was one of the first women to publicly accuse Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of rape in October last year and became a prominent face of the subsequent #MeToo movement against institutionalised sexual harassment. But the New York Times reported that Argento herself had been accused of sexual abuse. Bennet has alleged that the actress had sexually assaulted him and had intercourse with him in a California hotel room when he was underage according to the state’s consent laws. According to the report, Bennet, now 22, informed Argento of his intent to sue in November last year, after which she reached a financial settlement of $380,000 with him. Argento has denied the allegations.
“I was underage when the event took place,” Bennett said in his statement, “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. 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.”
He said that he would not remain silent about the incident now. “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,” Bennett said.
In a statement to journalist Yashar Ali about the New York Times report, Argento denied having a sexual relationship with Bennett. She said that even though the sexual encounter never happened, she paid off Bennett through the late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, her boyfriend at the time, so that Bennett would stop harassing them. Law enforcement officials in California said in a statement on Monday that they were “looking into” the allegations.
Meanwhile, in an interview published on Wednesday in Italian newspaper La Stampa, Argento’s father and renowned director Dario Argento said that “there is an air of conspiracy” around the allegations against his daughter. He said there is likely to be a connection between the allegations against Argento and Weinstein.
“I’m only making assumptions, but certainly, since Asia decided to make her accusation [against Harvey Weinstein] there have been violent reactions, even in Italy, by politicians,” Dario Argento, naming Italian politicians Vittorio Sgarbi and Matteo Salvini.