'Ashamed & afraid'

Jimmy Bennett, actor who has accused Asia Argento, speaks out about why he didn’t come forward sooner

Jimmy Bennett at the premiere of Relativity Media's '21 And Over' at the Village Theatre on February 21, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Getty Images)

The actor who accused Asia Argento of sexually abusing him when he was underage has broken his silence in the wake of revelations that Argento made a $380,000 payment to stop him from going public with allegations against her late last year. Jimmy Bennett, who first met Argento when he was 7 years old and the two worked on a film together, said he didn’t come forward sooner because he feared a “stigma” as a male reporting sexual misconduct against a woman. Bennett, according to reports, accused Argento of sexually assaulting him in 2013 when he was 17 and she was 37. The encounter allegedly took place at a hotel in California where the age of consent is 18.

In a statement made to Variety, Bennett, who is now  22, said he didn’t come forward publicly sooner “because I was ashamed and afraid to be part of the public narrative.” Bennett has said that after Argento publicly accused Harvey Weinstein of rape last year, the trauma he says he suffered from the alleged encounter with Argento reemerged. Argento became one of the leading voices of the #MeToo movement, which was triggered by the accusations against Weinstein.

“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 said in the statement. Argento has publicly denied having had a sexual encounter with Bennett and has said that his claims were an attempt at blackmail because he needs money. And she has said that her late boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain, was the one who made the payment. “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,” Argento said earlier this week.

But text messages that an associate of Argento subsequently leaked to TMZ paint a different picture of the incident. In the text messages, the person said to be Argento, who is from Italy, admits to having engaged in intercourse with Bennett, but said it “felt weird” and that she was unclear on what the age of consent in the U.S. or a specific state was. A photo also leaked to TMZ showed the two lying in bed, both shirtless. Other photos of the two from the time of the alleged incident are still posted on Argento’s Instagram page.

In his statement, Bennett seemed to be looking to move on, but remain free to speak about the accusations. “I would like to move past this event in my life, and today I choose to move forward, no longer in silence,” he said.

For more on the story, watch the video below.

Read the full story at Variety.

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