The woman who created the #MeToo movement is calling on her fellow activists to press forward in light of news that one of the group’s most prominent voices, Asia Argento, allegedly paid off an accuser of her own.
According to a report in The New York Times, Argento, who emerged as one of the most ardent supporters of the #MeToo movement after she accused disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein of rape last year, made a deal with a young actor who accused her of sexual assault.
Tarana Burke took to Twitter on Monday to answer criticism that Argento’s alleged settlement was a blow to the movement’s credibility.
“I’ve said repeatedly that the #metooMVMT is for all of us, including these brave young men who are now coming forward,” Burke wrote. “It will continue to be jarring when we hear the names of some of our faves connected to sexual violence unless we shift from talking about individuals…and begin to talk about power. Sexual violence is about power and privilege. That doesn’t change if the perpetrator is your favorite actress, activist or professor of any gender.”
The New York Times reports it has lawyers’ documents showing that actor and musician Jimmy Bennett alleges Argento, an actress and filmmaker, sexually assaulted him in 2013 when he was 17 and she was 37. The age of consent where the alleged assault took place, California, is 18.
The publication received the documents “through encrypted email by an unidentified party,” and included “a selfie dated May 9, 2013, of the two lying in bed.”
Bennett reportedly asked Argento for $3.5 million in damages, a month after she spoke out about Weinstein last October. The Times says Argento later arranged to pay Bennett $380,000.
Burke did not refer to Argento by name but made reference to “recent news stories” that she said some would use “to try and discredit this movement.”
“Don’t let that happen,” Burke wrote. “This is what Movement is about. It’s not a spectator sport. It is people generated. We get to say ‘this is/isn’t what this movement is about!’”
The Times’ efforts to reach Argento for comment, which began last Thursday, have been unsuccessful.
CNN has also reached out to Argento’s attorneys and representatives.
Bennett’s attorney, Gordon K. Sattro, asked for privacy for his client in statement issued Monday to CNN.
“At this time, our client, Jimmy Bennett, does not wish to comment on the documents or the events discussed in the New York Times article yesterday evening,” the statement read. “While we realize that the news cycle demands an immediate response, many times, people need more than a few minutes or hours to respond. We are asking that you give our client some time and space.”
Argento was one of the first women to come forward with allegations against Weinstein, who earlier this year pleaded not guilty to six felony sex crimes stemming from allegations made by three women, none of whom are Argento.
Weinstein has previously denied all allegations of “non-consensual sexual activity.”
The flood of misconduct allegations against Weinstein kicked off a conversation about abuse that reverberated across professional industries. Thousands of people have shared their own stories using #MeToo, including male victims.
“My hope is that as more folks come forward, particularly men, that we prepare ourselves for some hard conversations about power and humanity and privilege and harm,” Burke added. “This issue is less about crime & punishment and more about harm and harm reduction. A shift can happen. This movement is making space for possibility.”
She added: “But, it can only happen after we crack open the whole can of worms and get really comfortable with the uncomfortable reality that there is no one way to be a perpetrator…and there is no model survivor.”
CNN’s Lisa Respers France, Susannah Cullinane, and Chloe Melas contributed to this report.