Claim against Argento puts female abusers in spotlight

Kati Gardella, Crier staff

News of celebrity sexual offenses are rampant in the media, especially in the era of Harvey Weinstein and the Me Too movement. It is extremely rare however, that the alleged offender is a female.

In August, the headlines broke that the Italian actress Asia Argento was accused of sexually assaulting a child actor, and her former costar, Jimmy Bennet.

On May 9, 2013, Jimmy Bennet arrived at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Marina Del Ray with a family member for a reunion with the actress Asia Argento. Allegedly, Argento requested for the family member to leave, and made sexual advances toward Bennet once they were alone, which advanced to intercourse.

When questioned about the incident by, Argento stated that Bennet had “jumped her,” and that the intercourse had made her feel “weird.” She also claimed that she did not know he was underage at the time of their encounter.

Allegedly, she also defended herself by saying that the age of consent is 15 in France and Italy. This is irrelevant, as the incident happened in California.

Argento was also Bennet’s senior by 20 years – more than twice his age. If nothing else, that fact alone should have been enough to deter Argento from making a morally wrong decision. Argento had also known Bennet since he was seven, and he had played her son in a movie in 2004.

It was revealed that Anthony Bourdain, who died by suicide in June, had paid a large settlement to Bennet. It was hush money, so to speak.

With the large amount of $380,000, it was clear that Bourdain and Argento were attempting to bury a secret. Sexual assaults are silenced with money and power far too frequently.

Victim shame and self-blame is already a terrible obstacle to overcome when publicizing a traumatic attack.

In a heartbreaking statement, Bennet said “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.”

Overall, society pictures the typical victim of sexual assault to be a young and vulnerable female, not a teenage boy. There is the harmful stereotype that teenage boys will always be able to protect themselves, and even worse, that they will only be aggressors themselves, and not victims.

Society perceives women as more likely to be nurturing and caring than deviant. Although women are less likely than men to commit violent assaults, it is undeniable that female aggressors exist.

It is much more difficult for men to seek out support, as they are pressured to not show emotions or anything that could be construed as weakness.

Similarly, men are less likely to seek out help with mental health problems, such as depression and suicidal thoughts. Toxic masculinity promotes beliefs that it is effeminate to seek emotional help.

More difficulties are created for victims when assailants adamantly deny their crimes. Harvey Weinstein attempted to convince the public that all the sexual relationships between him and his accusers were consensual or nonexistent.

Argento initially tried a similar tactic, by denying that any sexual encounter between her and Bennet ever happened.

The shifting story and her changing narrative of what happened complicates the case.

Bennet has shared that he intends to press charges and launch an investigation with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.

In 2017, another female celebrity, Melanie Martinez, was accused of sexual assault by a female friend. The victim stated that those she confided in about the assault did not provide full emotional support, as “they couldn’t seem to grasp the terrible brutality of the rape because my rapist was a woman.”

She also shared that she did not report the attack to the police, as she felt like no action would be taken, and it would only create further stress.

It is our responsibility to validate and support those who have experienced trauma without letting superficial factors like gender expectations create an obstacle. Survivors of sexual assault should be encouraged to seek justice and regain a sense of peace and safety, and should not have to feel as they must forever conceal a shameful secret.

Bennet was very brave for making a public report of the assault to encourage men and boys who have experienced sexual trauma to speak out, as well as anyone else victimized by a female.