Asia Argento’s accuser, Jimmy Bennett, issued a statement on Wednesday saying that he didn’t speak out shortly after the alleged 2013 sexual assault took place because he felt “ashamed and afraid to be part of the public narrative.”
“I did not initially speak out about my story because I chose to handle it in private with the person who wronged me,” said Bennett in a statement to TheWrap. “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.”
He added, “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. 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.”
Late Sunday, the New York Times reported that Argento arranged to pay a settlement last November to Bennett, a now-22-year-old actor-musician who played Argento’s son in the 2004 film “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things.”
Documents obtained by the paper indicated that Bennett met Argento in a California hotel room in May 2013 — just two months after his 17th birthday — where he said she sexually assaulted him.
Bennett’s lawyer, Gordon K. Sattro, had sent Argento an intent to sue her for $3.5 million in damages for infliction of emotional distress, lost wages, assault and battery, according to the Times.
Although Argento initially remained silent over the allegations, on Tuesday, the actress released a statement in which she strongly denied the alleged sexual assault. Moreover, she said her late boyfriend Anthony Bourdain, “personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life.”
“I strongly deny and oppose the contents of the New York Times article,” she said. “I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false. I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett.”
Since coming forward in November with the allegations about Harvey Weinstein, Argento has become a leading figure in the #MeToo movement and was joined in the fight by Bourdain, who died in June of an apparent suicide.
Argento’s emergence as an advocate against sexual misconduct in the industry prompted Bennett to come forward, according to his attorney. “Feelings about that day were brought to the forefront recently when Ms. Argento took the spotlight as one of the many victims of Harvey Weinstein,” Sattro wrote in his letter of intent to sue, the Times reported.
A spokesperson for Argento has not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment.