Jimmy Bennett has broken his silence after he claimed he was assaulted by actress Asia Argento in 2013.
On Wednesday, Bennett released a statement claiming he had previously refrained from speaking about the encounter because he wanted to "handle it" in "private with the person who wronged me." He went on to assert that his "trauma" resurfaced when Argento came out as a "victim" herself. The actress has been a leading force in the #MeToo movement, being one of the first to come forward during the Harvey Weinstein scandal last fall. She claimed the media mogul raped her when she was 21.
The New York Times reported Sunday evening that Argento arranged to pay Bennett, who is 20 years her junior, $380,000 over 18 months. In documents obtained by the NYT, Bennett, a young actor and musician, claimed Argento had sexually assaulted him in a Southern California hotel room in 2013 when he was 17 and she was 37. (The age of consent in California is 18.)
"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 the statement Wednesday. "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," he continued. "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."
Read Bennett's full statement below.
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 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 has denied all of Bennett's claims that they ever had a sexual encounter and revealed that it was her boyfriend at the time, the late Anthony Bourdain, who ended up paying off Bennett.
"I strongly deny and oppose the contents of the New York Times article dated 20 August 2018, as circulated also in national and international news," she said in a statement released Tuesday morning through journalist Yashir Ali. "I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false. I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett."
"I was linked to him during several years by friendship only, which ended when, subsequent to my exposure in the Weinstein case, Bennett -- who was then undergoing severe economic problems and who had previously undertaken legal actions against his own family requesting millions in damages -- unexpectedly made an exorbitant request of money from me," she continued. "Bennett knew my boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain, was a man of perceived wealth and had his own reputation as a beloved public figure to protect."
"Anthony was afraid of the possibly negative publicity that such person, whom he considered dangerous, could have brought upon us," Argento's statement continued. "We decided to deal compassionately with Bennett's demand for help and give it to him. Anthony personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life."
"This is, therefore, the umpteenth development of a sequence of events that brings me great sadness and that constitutes a long-standing persecution," her statement concluded. "I have therefore no other choice but to oppose such false allegations and will assume in the short term all necessary initiatives for my protection before all competent venues."
Although the Italian actress has strongly denied sexual relations with Bennett, TMZ reported Wednesday that they had found text messages between Argento and a friend that suggested otherwise.
They also released a photo of Bennett, now 22, with Argento that was taken the day of the alleged assault at the Marina Del Rey hotel in 2013.