Asia Argento, an Italian actress and director, was one of the first women to come forward to say Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulted her in October, which subsequently made her a vocal leader of the #Me Too movement against systemic sexual harassment and assault.
A month after coming forward last year, Argento received a notice of intent to sue from an actor she had previously worked with, detailing Argento’s sexual assault of the actor in 2013, when she was 37 and he was 17. The assault, described as a “sexual battery” had affected the actor’s subsequent income and mental health.
According to the New York Times, Argento settled to pay Jimmy Bennett, an actor and rock musician, $380,000 after receiving the notice in November. According to documents sent to the publication from an encrypted email by an unidentified source, the assault took place on May 9, 2013, when Bennett, who is now 22, met Argento for a reunion in a hotel room in Marina del Rey, California. The two had previously worked together on a film she directed, co-wrote, and starred in, The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, in 2004. Bennett, who was 7 years old, played Argento’s son in the film.
The meeting was apparently confirmed by an Instagram post and comments featuring Argento and Bennett. Those photos are still posted to Argento’s account.
After being driven by a family member, the documents sent to the Times state that Argento asked the family member to leave. She then gave Bennett alcohol and read notes she had written him. She then kissed him, performed oral sex on him, and had intercourse with him. She then had Bennett take photos of them, some of them in bed with their torsos exposed. Argento used one of the photos on Instagram, writing, “Happiest day of my life reunion with @jimmymbennett xox.”
After driving home to his parents’ house after having lunch, the document says Bennett began to feel “extremely confused, mortified, and disgusted.” Bennett did not want to be interviewed for the Times piece, but his lawyer gave a statement. Argento did not respond to requests for a response.
“In the coming days, Jimmy will continue doing what he has been doing over the past months and years, focusing on his music,” the lawyer, Gordon K. Sattro, wrote to the Times.
Across Twitter, supporters and critics of the #MeToo movement, which has targeted the status quo of personal and institutional silence protecting sexual harassers and abusers from consequences and legal prosecution, are parsing the news of the assault characterized in the documents.
The concern about the possibility of Asia Argento discrediting the #metoo movement, rather than a concern for the victim is so so fucking depressing— Fink Diddy ひひ (@lilfinkel) August 20, 2018
So far @AsiaArgento has declined to comment on these allegations. Still hoping she speaks up. People are going to want to hear what she has to say and how it meshes with her other statements about #metoo. https://t.co/2xuWsSPtSp— jodikantor (@jodikantor) August 20, 2018
I got to know Asia Argento ten months ago. Our commonality is the shared pain of being assaulted by Harvey Weinstein. My heart is broken. I will continue my work on behalf of victims everywhere.— rose mcgowan (@rosemcgowan) August 20, 2018
While Argento was pivotal in forming an international movement for listening to the accounts of sexual assault survivors, she herself is said to have assaulted a young, teenage former co-star, leaving some to once again question her own credibility regarding her assault.
Will the #MeToo movement condemn one of its leaders, the child abuser Asia Argento?— Syd Barrett (@ezuludemon) August 20, 2018
Hey, woke Twitter! Why so quiet on Asia Argento paying off an underage male teenager who accused her of sexual assault when she was 37 and he was 17?— Ruby Hamad (@rubyhamad) August 20, 2018
Others, however, say they still take Argento’s assault seriously, while also believing the assault described by Bennett’s lawyer, and taking the actor’s trauma seriously as well.
Asia Argento sexually abused a minor. Asia Argento was sexually abused by Harvey Weinstein. These two events neither intersect nor should the consequences of either circumstance affect each other. Both are unacceptable.— Candra Maung (@candsmau) August 20, 2018
The only thing you'll hear about Asia Argento from #MeToo is that her actions don't negate what Weinstein did.— Lincoln Osiris (@Facepalmthis_) August 20, 2018
But she's just as sick a fuck as him.
Whatever happens in the Asia Argento case doesnt take away from the fact Harvey Weinstein and many powerful men have preyed upon women, abused them, exploited them and have had their sins covered and buried, but now society is waking up and saying no more.— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) August 20, 2018
re; Asia Argento:— ☪️ Sha Naqba Īmuru ✡️ (@JShahryar) August 20, 2018
1. I believe she assaulted Jimmy Bennett.
2. I also believe that Harvey Weinstein assaulted her.
3. People of all genders can be and are assaulted.
4. #MeToo is about all victims of sexual assault. It's not about one survivor or one criminal.
This is awful, but I don't see any conclusion to draw from it besides "Two things can be true at once." https://t.co/4mi3zQPUmv— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) August 20, 2018
Tarana Burke, the originator of the phrase “Me, too” to embolden and support survivors, tweeted that the movement is also for young men, and that hearing the names of “some of our faves connected to sexual violence” will continue to be uncomfortable until we “shift from talking about individuals and begin to talk about power.”
“A shift can happen. This movement is making space for possibility. But, it can only happen after we crack open the whole can of worms and get really comfortable with the uncomfortable reality that there is no one way to be a perpetrator… and there is no model survivor,” Burke wrote. “We are imperfectly human and we all have to be accountable for our individual behavior.”
I’ve said repeatedly that the #metooMVMT is for all of us, including these brave young men who are now coming forward. It will continue to be jarring when we hear the names of some of our faves connected to sexual violence unless we shift from talking about individuals [+]— Tarana (@TaranaBurke) August 20, 2018
...and begin to talk about power. Sexual violence is about power and privilege. That doesn’t change if the perpetrator is your favorite actress, activist or professor of any gender.— Tarana (@TaranaBurke) August 20, 2018
And we won’t shift the culture unless we get serious about shifting these false narratives.
My hope is that as more folks come forward, particularly men, that we prepare ourselves for some hard conversations about power and humanity and privilege and harm. This issue is less about crime & punishment and more about harm and harm reduction.— Tarana (@TaranaBurke) August 20, 2018
A shift can happen. This movement is making space for possibility. But, it can only happen after we crack open the whole can of worms and get really comfortable with the uncomfortable reality that there is no one way to be a perpetrator.— Tarana (@TaranaBurke) August 20, 2018
...and there is no model survivor.— Tarana (@TaranaBurke) August 20, 2018
We are imperfectly human and we all have to be accountable for our individual behavior.
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!”— Tarana (@TaranaBurke) August 20, 2018
In a letter that Argento’s lawyer Carrie Goldberg wrote to her finalizing the settlement, Goldberg wrote the payments would be “helping Mr. Bennett,” and wrote “we hope nothing like this ever happens to you [Argento] again.”
Goldberg didn’t stop there: “You are a powerful and inspiring creator and it is a miserable condition of life that you live among shitty individuals who’ve preyed on both your strengths and your weaknesses.”