Actor Jimmy Bennett has issued his first public statement after The New York Times reported that Asia Argento paid him £285,000 after he accused her of sexual assault. In 2013, Argento (who was 37 at the time) allegedly had a sexual encounter with then-17-year-old Bennett. Bennett privately came forward with an intent to sue Argento last year after she became a public advocate of the #MeToo movement, but he is now addressing his experiences in public.
"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," Bennett's statement, given to The Hollywood Reporter, begins. "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. 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."
Argento previously denied having sex with the actor in a statement to journalist Yashar Ali, saying she is "deeply shocked and hurt" by the accusations. She also said that her late boyfriend Anthony Bourdain was responsible for the payment, telling Ali, "Anthony personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life." Representation for Argento and her attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
On Wednesday, TMZ also published texts that were allegedly sent by Argento about the incident, as well as a cropped picture taken during the alleged 2013 event. Argento has not commented on these new developments in the story.
If you have experienced sexual violence of any kind, please visit Rape Crisis or call 0808 802 9999.