Recent "Bachelorette" contender Leandro "Leo" Dottavio has addressed the recent sexual harassment claims made by former "Bachelor" contestant Bekah Martinez, saying this is the first he's heard of any allegations.
In a statement obtained by TooFab, Dottavio said he is "not a perfect person" but denied anyone ever coming to him personally to express having felt harassed by him or uncomfortable in his presence. In the statement, he acknowledged he is "not the man" he was years ago, adding, "If there was anyone I made feel uncomfortable, why not come to me?"
"Did I do things in college that I would be embarrassed about now? Absolutely," he said in the statement. "Was I a product of my culture, the times, movies? Yes. I have grown as a person since college!"
Dottavio added, "I would love an opportunity to right my wrongs and speak to any woman that wants to tell me how and when I made them feel uncomfortable. I want to take this as an opportunity to better myself and the treatment of women in my life."
Read the statement in full below.
There have been some recent stories about me that have garnered attention, and I want to address them. I want to start by saying no one has ever accused me of sexual harassment. No one has ever come to me in any way and told me I made them feel uncomfortable. However, I am not a perfect person, nor have I ever claimed to be. Did I do things in college that I would be embarrassed about now? Absolutely. Was I a product of my culture, the times, movies? Yes. I have grown as a person since college. I am not the man I was 2 years ago let alone 14 years ago. It's important for women to speak out if they felt uncomfortable or harassed. I support that. If there was anyone I made feel uncomfortable, why not come to me? I would love an opportunity to right my wrongs and speak to any woman that wants to tell me how and when I made them feel uncomfortable. I want to take this as an opportunity to better myself and the treatment of women in my life.
The sexual harassment allegations against Dottavio came to light Wednesday afternoon after Martinez posted to her Instagram a series of screenshots she collected from fans of hers who claim they have heard or seen Dottavio act inappropriately toward women.
The screenshots began with a comment Dottavio allegedly left on someone's Instagram photo four years ago that said, "You need my big d--k." Martinez accompanied the screenshot with her own comment: "Some great guys from this season."
Martinez told The New York Post she recently discovered the screenshot of Dottavio's comment while browsing Bachelor Nation Reddit pages but that the screenshot has been floating around on the internet since May. Dottavio told The Post that the screenshot of his comment was Photoshopped and that his lawyer was looking into it.
Martinez said after she posted the screenshot to her Instagram, she received about a dozen messages from women detailing "specific examples" of Dottavio acting inappropriately. Martinez then shared those messages to her Instagram without revealing the names of the senders.
One of the women told Martinez she attended college with Dottavio and performed in theater productions with him. The woman said he would act "creepy" around her and other women -- some of them, she claimed, were "barely legal." Another woman told Martinez that Dottavio relentlessly pursued her friend and sent her multiple "unwanted" pictures of his genitals.
Martinez and Dottavio have never met, but the former says that "hearing first hand from other cast members about his behavior definitely [does] not lend to his character."
Dottavio has threatened to sue Martinez, but she did not back down. "Just take responsibility and apologize," she countered yesterday on Instagram.
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Her most recent comment on the matter arrived on her Instagram Story on Friday morning. "Stepping away from this ongoing conversation about Leo for the next couple of days unless absolutely necessary. Please know I am not ignoring anyone or backing down, but I need a break," she wrote. "It's easy to focus only on the negative responses and to feel disheartened by men who continue to get away with inappropriate behavior and women who continue to protect abusers and attack their fellow women."
ABC, the network that airs both "The Bachelorette" and "The Bachelor," had no comment when contacted by TooFab.