Jimmy Bennett, the actor and musician who accused Asia Argento of sexual abuse when he was 17, is speaking out.
Bennett wrote in a statement sent to E! News that he was "ashamed and afraid to be part of the public narrative." (Read his full statement here.)
"Today I choose to move forward, no longer in silence," he wrote.
The Times originally broke the news about the allegations and subsequent $380,000 payout from Argento, who denies the claims against her. In his statement, Bennett reveals how he felt at the time of the alleged assault and why he held back from immediately responding.
"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," he said.
Bennett also admitted that his age and gender played a major role in the outcome. "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," he wrote.
Yesterday, Argento released a statement of her own denying the claims against her. "I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false," she said in a response obtained by journalist Yashar Ali. Argento asserts that she and Bennett were connected "by friendship only" and that ended when he "unexpectedly made an exorbitant request of money from me."
According to the Italian actress, her boyfriend, the late Anthony Bourdain, stepped in. "Anthony insisted the matter be handled privately and this was also what Bennett wanted," she wrote.
Bourdain allegedly paid for the silence "upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life."
Documents given to the New York Times say the first payment to Bennett consisted of $200,000 with Argento now making $10,000 per month deposits.
According to the Times, Bennett alleged the event occurred on May 9, 2013 at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Marina Del Rey, Calif. Argento and Bennett made plans to reunite, but the actor was joined by a family member. Documents say Argento asked the family member to leave the two of them alone. The Times described Bennett's allegations: "She gave him alcohol to drink and showed him a series of notes she had written to him on hotel stationery. Then she kissed him, pushed him back on the bed, removed his pants and performed oral sex. She climbed on top of him and the two had intercourse, the document says. She then asked him to take a number of photos."
When this meetup allegedly happened, Argento was 37 and Bennett was under the age of consent in accordance with California law.
A photo of them together on that day is still up on Argento's Instagram page.
TMZ published what it claims are leaked text messages between Argento and a friend, in which the actress admits to having sex with him. However, E! News has not been able to verify their legitimacy. One of the texts, reportedly from Argento, states: "I had sex with him it felt weird. I didn't know he was a minor until the shakedown letter."
Argento has been one of the most outspoken #MeToo activists and vocal about her own sexual assault allegations against disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein. Rose McGowan, another Weinstein accuser, responded on Twitter about the claims against Argento. "My heart is broken. I will continue my work on behalf of victims everywhere," she wrote.
Similarly, fellow #MeToo activist Mira Sorvino said she was "heartsick over the allegations against Asia Argento...Child sexual assault is a heinous crime and is against all that I and the #MeToo movement stands for."
#MeToo founder Tarana Burke vocalized on Twitter her own hopes for the movement—inevitable difficulties included. She had a message for anyone trying to claim the Argento story makes the #MeToo movement completely illegitimate: "People will use these recent news stories to try and discredit this movement - don't let that happen. This is what Movement is about. It's not a spectator sport. It is people generated. We get to say 'this is/isn't what this movement is about!'"