Asia Argento, one of the leaders of the #MeToo movement, paid $380,000 to silence former child-actor Jimmy Bennett, whom she sexually assaulted in 2013 soon after his 17th birthday.
This is not a situation, either, where 37-year-old Argento had consensual sex with a 17-year-old guy. First of all, anyone under the age of consent cannot legally provide consent. Second, this is a situation where Argento cultivated a mother-son like relationship with Bennett — who once played her young son in a movie in which they appeared together — over many years and then used that dynamic to exploit Bennett for sex. Bennett was 7 years old when they appeared in The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, which Argento wrote, directed, and starred in, and over the years, the two actually referred to each other as mother and son in social media posts.
On May 9, 2013, the day they met for a reunion in her room at a Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey, Calif., she posted on Instagram: “Waiting for my long lost son my love @jimmymbennett in trepidation #marinadelrey smoking cigarettes like there was no next week.”
Mr. Bennett responded, “I’m almost there!:)”
Mr. Bennett, who has an eye condition that prevents him from driving, arrived at Ms. Argento’s hotel room that morning with a family member, according to his notice of intent.
The document lays out Mr. Bennett’s account: Ms. Argento asked the family member to leave so she could be alone with the actor. She gave him alcohol to drink and showed him a series of notes she had written to him on hotel stationery. Then she kissed him, pushed him back on the bed, removed his pants and performed oral sex. She climbed on top of him and the two had intercourse, the document says. She then asked him to take a number of photos.
The experience, for obvious reasons, had a profound negative effect on Bennett, even though they continued to stay in contact. Bennett alleged that the sexual battery was traumatic, affected his mental health, and hindered his ability to work.
Bennett filed his notice of intent to sue Argento last year, one month after Argento was featured in Ronan Farrow’s piece on the multiple allegations against Harvey Weinstein. Argento quietly settled with Bennett for $380,000 in April of this year. The settlement did not include a non-disclosure agreement, as they are not allowed under California in these types of situations. Anthony Bourdain — a very vocal advocate of the #MeToo movement and outspoken defender of Argento — helped Argento navigate the situation (Bourdain and Argento also shared the same lawyer). He took his own life less than two months after the settlement was finalized.
I’m sure there are many people on social media suggesting that this will be damaging to the #MeToo movement. It might be. But it shouldn’t be. It doesn’t mean that Argento was not sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein. It doesn’t mean that there has not been a history of powerful men harassing and assaulting women in the entertainment industry, or in almost any other industry. But it also doesn’t mean that powerful women don’t sometimes assault men, as well.
Believe women. But also believe anyone who has experienced sexual assault.
Header Image Source: Getty