"I was underage when the event took place," continued Bennett, now 22, in his statement, "and I 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. I didn't think that people would understand the event that took place from the eyes of a teenage boy."
He continued, "I have had to overcome many adversities in my life, and this is another that I will deal with, in time. I would like to move past this event in my life, and today I choose to move forward, no longer in silence."
Argento has denied that she ever had a sexual relationship with Bennett, saying in a Tuesday statement that the reported $380,000 payoff was the idea of her late boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain. "I am deeply shocked and hurt having read the news that is absolutely false," she said, in part, in a statement to journalist Yashar Ali about the report. "I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett." (The Times has since stood by its story.)
According to legal documents obtained by the Times, Bennett claimed that in 2013, Argento assaulted him in a California hotel only two months past his 17th birthday; the age of consent in California is 18. In the notice of intent to sue sent to Argento by Bennett's lawyers, photos of Argento and Bennett semi-clothed in bed, as well as an Instagram post of their faces taken on the day, were included, according to the Times.
Argento and Bennett co-starred in the 2004 film The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, which Argento also wrote and directed. Bennett, a 7-year-old at the time, played Argento's son. The two seemingly kept in touch, referring to each other on social media as mother and son.
Earlier on Wednesday, TMZ published an alleged text message conversation and leaked photo of Argento with Bennett that purported to contradict Argento's denial that she and Bennett never had a sexual relationship. The same day, Bennett's talent management company revealed that they are no longer working with the actor.
According to the texts, the person identified to be Argento writes, "I had sex with him it felt weird. I didn't know he was a minor until the shakedown letter." The conversation seemed to have taken place after the Times story broke on Sunday. In another text, a message identified as being sent by Argento reads, "The public knows nothing, only what NYT wrote. Which is one sided. The shakedown letter. The horny kid jumped me."
Along with the conversation, TMZ published one of the four photos Bennett is said to have taken in the hotel room with Argento when the alleged incident occurred. The cropped selfie purports to show Bennett and Argento together in bed. The Times has confirmed the photo as the one that was described in the initial report.
Reps for Argento declined to comment on the story, and her lawyer has not responded to The Hollywood Reporter's requests for comment.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on Wednesday told THR that the department "is aware of the media reports naming Asia Argento as being involved in an alleged 2013 incident" and "is attempting to reach out to the reported victim and/or his representatives in an effort to appropriately document any potential criminal allegations." The department has not located a police report in relation to the alleged incident.
On Monday, Bennett’s attorney, Gordon K. Sattro, had asked for privacy for his client and said Bennett planned to take "the next 24 hours, or longer, to prepare his response."
Bennett's full statement is below.
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 such a stand. I did not initially speak out about my story because I chose to handle it in private with the person who wronged me. My trauma resurfaced as she came out as a victim herself. 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 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. I didn’t think that people would understand the event that took place from the eyes of a teenage boy. I have had to overcome many adversities in my life, and this is another that I will deal with, in time. I would like to move past this event in my life, and today I choose to move forward, no longer in silence.
This article originally appeared in THR.com.