Actor who accused Asia Argento said he tried to keep story private

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor Jimmy Bennett, who The New York Times reported has accused Italian actress Asia Argento of sexual assault, said on Wednesday he tried to handle the matter privately and felt “ashamed and afraid” after the story was published.

FILE PHOTO: 71st Cannes Film Festival – Closing ceremony – Cannes, France, May 19, 2018. Asia Argento gestures on stage. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo

The Times reported on Sunday that Bennett had accused Argento, an outspoken advocate in the #MeToo social media movement against sexual misconduct, of sexually assaulting him in 2013 when he was 17 and she was 37.

In a statement issued through his attorney, Gordon Sattro, on Wednesday, Bennett said he initially chose to handle the matter in private, but he said when Argento publicly accused movie producer Harvey Weinstein of rape, his “trauma resurfaced as she came out as a victim herself.”

It was Bennett’s first comment since the New York Times story.

Argento’s agent did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

The Times reported that Bennett had sought a payment from Argento in November 2017, shortly after she accused Weinstein. Weinstein has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.

Bennett said he “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.”

“At the time I believed there was still a stigma to being in the situation as a male in our society,” he said. “I didn’t think that people would understand the event that took place from the eyes of a teenage boy.”

In a statement on Tuesday, Argento denied having sexual contact with Bennett. She said she and her then-boyfriend, the late culinary television star Anthony Bourdain, had “decided to deal compassionately with Bennett’s demand for help and give it to him.”

In the past 10 months, numerous men in the entertainment industry and in politics have been accused of sexual misconduct, forcing some resignations, helped by the #MeToo movement.

Reporting by Lisa Richwine