Jimmy Bennett addressed a report on Wednesday that he was sexually assaulted by actress Asia Argento as a teenager, with the now-22-year-old former child actor saying that he was too “ashamed and afraid” to speak out about what happened before.
“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,” he said in a statement released by his attorney. It appeared to acknowledge Argento’s claim to having been raped by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, which she has spoken out about as part of the Me Too movement.
“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 added.
His response comes four days after The New York Times reported that Argento paid Bennett $380,000 over the alleged 2013 incident that took place when he was 17 and she was 37. The age of consent in California is 18.
Bennett said he stayed silent after the Times’ report “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.”
“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,” he added.
Argento has publicly denied having had sexual relations with Bennett, instead claiming in a statement on Tuesday that the money paid to him in installments was to help him financially and to avoid a possible blackmail attempt by him.
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 had sex with him it felt weird. I didn’t know he was a minor until the shakedown letter,” she’s alleged to have said in one text message to an unknown recipient.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said Monday that it was investigating the possible assault.