LOS ANGELES (AP) — A young actor who alleged in legal documents that Italian actress and filmmaker Asia Argento sexually assaulted him when he was 17 said Wednesday that his trauma resurfaced when Argento came out as a victim of sexual assault herself last year.
“I did not initially speak out about my story because I chose to handle it in private with the person who wronged me,” Bennett, now 22, said in a statement released through Attorney Gordon K. Sattro.
The comments were his first made publicly since a Sunday New York Times story saying Argento reached a $380,000 legal settlement with him last year over an alleged sexual assault in a California hotel room in 2013.
“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.”
Bennett said he believed there was a stigma to being sexually assaulted as a male, and that he “didn’t think that people would understand the event that took place from the eyes of a teenage boy.”
His comments come a day after the 42-year-old Argento denied having a sexual relationship with him. She said in a statement Tuesday that she was linked “in friendship only” to Bennett, who played her son in a film in 2004.
She said the $380,000 payment, made in response to a notice of intent to sue for $3.5 million in damages that Bennett had filed, was undertaken by her boyfriend Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef who killed himself in France in June.
“Anthony personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life,” Argento’s statement said.
Earlier Wednesday, TMZ published a photo that showed Argento and Bennett lying together, their heads touching as they lay on a pillow, their shirts apparently off. The celebrity website did not say how it obtained the photo. A previous picture on TMZ showed the pair embracing but sitting up and fully clothed.
The Los Angeles County sheriff’s department said it is looking into the allegations and seeking to talk to Bennett. No police report was filed at the time, the department said. The age of consent in California is 18.
Argento became one of the leading figures of the #MeToo movement after she told the New Yorker magazine last year that Weinstein raped her at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997 when she was 21. Weinstein has been indicted on sex crime accusations involving three women, but not including Argento. He has denied having engaged in any nonconsensual sexual acts.
Bennett said in his statement that Argento’s emergence as a Weinstein accuser brought back his own trauma, and the movement as a whole has prompted him to address the experience.
“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 a stand,” Bennett’s statement said.
Actress Ashley Judd, another Weinstein accuser, spoke out Wednesday against anyone who would use the Argento allegations to undermine the #MeToo movement.
“We hold any and every abuser accountable, regardless of their gender, race, socio-economic status, public visibility or popularity,” Judd said on Twitter. “Sexual violence is wrong, full stop.”
Also Wednesday, Argento backed out of curating a Dutch music festival.
Organizers of the “Le Guess Who?” festival said in a statement that “due to the volatile nature of the accusations surrounding Ms. Argento, she has chosen to withdraw from her curatorship of this year’s edition, while these issues remain open.”