Jimmy Bennett, the former child actor who accused Asia Argento of sexual assault, has released a statement explaining why he didn’t initially speak out about the alleged abuse when it reportedly happened five years ago.
“I did not initially speak out about my story because I chose to handle it in private with the person who wronged me,” reads the statement, released to PEOPLE on Wednesday by Bennett’s lawyer Gordon K. Sattro. “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.”
Bennett’s statement comes in the wake of the allegations that were first surfaced by the New York Times on Sunday. According to the Times, Bennett, 22, and Argento, 42, reached a financial settlement after Bennett claimed Argento performed oral sex on him and engaged in intercourse in 2013 when he was 17 and she was 37 (In California, 18 is the age of consent).
Bennett’s statement continues: “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.”
Bennett went on to praise the “many brave women and men have spoken out about their own experiences during the #metoo movement” in his statement, and that he appreciates “the bravery that it took for each and every one of them to take such a stand.”
In a statement released Tuesday, Argento denied ever having “a sexual relationship” with Bennett and said she was “deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false.”
The actress said Bennett reached out following her public accusation of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein last fall knowing her boyfriend Bourdain was “a man of great perceived wealth.” She claimed the late chef then decided to handle the matter quietly. Bourdain was found dead by suicide in June at age 61.
“Anthony was afraid of the possible negative publicity that such person, whom he considered dangerous, could have brought upon us. We decided to deal compassionately with Bennett’s demand for help and gave it to him,” she said. “Anthony personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life.”
However, TMZ published texts on Wednesday allegedly between Argento and a friend talking about Bennett’s claims and the reported incident. In the texts, Argento denies knowing Bennett was a minor at the time until he contacted her and Bourdain last fall. She also allegedly says she “felt weird” after the two had sex and pointed out that the legal age of consent is 15 in France and Italy.
“The public knows nothing, only what NYT wrote. Which is one sided,” she allegedly wrote in the text, according to TMZ. “The horny kid jumped me.”
TMZ also published a photo of Argento and Bennett that appears to show them in bed together, and a letter Bennett allegedly wrote Argento after the incident. The letter is addressed to Argento from Bennett and says that he is happy the actress is in his life.
“I love you with all my heart. So glad we met again,” Bennett allegedly says in the letter, which is written on stationary from the Ritz Carlton, the hotel where the incident reportedly took place.