As one of the first women to come forward with accusations of sexual misconduct against movie producer Harvey Weinstein, actress Asia Argento has positioned herself as a prominent voice in the #MeToo movement. On Sunday, the New York Times reported that in the months following her accusation, Argento allegedly paid £285,000 to an accuser of her own.
In 2013, Argento allegedly had a sexual encounter with then-17-year-old actor Jimmy Bennett when she was 37. Bennett had starred alongside Argento in The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, and the two had developed a "mother-son" relationship, according to a statement from his lawyer, Gordon K. Sattro.
The documents of the arrangement, which were sent to the New York Times, detail Bennett's account of the events of May 9, 2013. He says he came with a family member to visit Argento at her room in the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey, California. Argento allegedly asked the family member to leave, gave Bennett alcohol, and then performed oral sex on Bennett before the two had sexual intercourse. After they had lunch, Bennett was driven home, and during the ride, he began to feel "extremely confused, mortified, and disgusted," according to Sattro. Reps for Argento and Bennett did not immediately return Refinery29's request for comment, and Argento did not respond to requests for comment from The New York Times.
It wasn't until Argento became a public face for the #MeToo movement that Bennett's feelings about their encounter prompted him and his lawyer to ask for £2.6 million in damages for the intentional infliction of emotional distress, lost wages, assault, and battery. He says the trauma from this encounter is to blame for his loss of income, which dropped from £2 million in the five years prior to the 2013 incident to £45,000 a year since. The agreement between the two parties stipulated that Argento must pay £285,000 over the course of a year and half, beginning with £150,000 in April. According to the Times, Argento received guidance on this matter from her late boyfriend Anthony Bourdain, who died by suicide in June. Bourdain and Argento shared the same lawyer, Richard Hofstetter, who received Bennett's initial intent to sue, although Carrie Goldberg was the lawyer who ultimately handled Argento's agreement.
Notably, the agreement does not include a nondisclosure agreement, something Argento and others have spoken out against due to their role in silencing victims of sexual assault. However, the agreement does not allow Bennett to sue Argento over his claims, nor can he post a photo that he took of the two of them during the encounter.
Argento broke her own silence in October 2017 when she spoke to Ronan Farrow for a bombshell article in The New Yorker. She claimed Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulted her in 1997 when she was 21 years old. Through his lawyer, Weinstein has denied all accusations of nonconsensual sex.
If you have experienced sexual violence of any kind, please visit Rape Crisis or call 0808 802 9999.