(NEW YORK) — Jimmy Bennett, the man who’s accused Italian actress Asia Argento of sexually assaulting him when he was 17, has broken his silence.
Bennett, now in his twenties, explained that he originally chose to handle the situation with Argento privately, but when she publicly accused producer Harvey Weinstein of sexually assaulting her, something changed.
“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 says in a statement obtained by ABC’s Good Morning America. “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.”
“At the time I believed there was still a stigma to being in the situation as a male in our society,” he continued. “I didn’t think that people would understand the event that took place from the eyes of a teenage boy.”
Added Bennett, “Many brave women and men have spoken out about their own experiences during the #MeToo movement, and I appreciate the bravery that it took for each and every one of them to take such a stand. 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.”
The New York Times reported earlier this week that last year, Argento quietly paid Bennett $380,000 to settle the accusations, which date back to 2013.
Bennett claims that at the time of the alleged May 13, 2013 incident, he arrived at the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey, California to meet Argento in her hotel room with a family member, who left the room after Argento asked to be alone with Bennett. He further alleges that Argento gave him alcohol prior to the assault, which allegedly included oral sex and intercourse.
Argento then asked to take a number of photos with Bennett, according to the documents cited by The New York Times. They, along with an Instagram post of their faces taken on that day, were included in the notice of intent to sue.
Argento, 42, has denied the allegations made against her, stating on Tuesday that she never had a sexual relationship with Bennett and was “deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false.”
However, a photo obtained by TMZ appears to show Argento and Bennett, both shirtless, cuddling each other in what appears to be a bed. The gossip website also posted an alleged text conversation between Argento and a friend in which Argento admits to having had sex with Bennett, although she says she “didn’t know he was a minor until the shakedown letter.”
“The horny kid jumped me,” the text adds.
Argento insisted on Tuesday that Bennett was undergoing financial hardships and began demanding money from her and her late boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain. She says it was Bourdain who paid Bennett to stop him from harassing her.
Ashley Judd, who also accused Weinstein of sexual harassment, quoted and tweeted a column Alyssa Milano wrote for The Wrap Tuesday, in which the actress says #MeToo and Argento are not one and the same and that she doesn’t want people to “invalidate” the movement because of this story.
“People pounced on the news that a vocal advocate for survivors has been accused of sexual battery, leveraging it to ‘prove’ that #MeToo is hypocritical and that sexual harassment and assault are not part of institutional misogyny,” Milano writes. “They are wrong.”
She continues: “The fact is, these two truths can exist at once: A victim of assault can also be an offender. It is sad and infuriating to say the least, but one victim’s alleged horrid behavior does not nullify an entire movement … Let me be clear: nothing can or will ever invalidate #MeToo, because it is a movement created by and for millions of survivors throughout the world.”
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