It is difficult, now, almost a year after The New York Times published the first story about Harvey Weinstein’s systematic sexual misconduct, to accurately remember the shock, the disgust, the disbelief that ripped through not just Hollywood, but the wider world. Weinstein’s name is now so synonymous with sexual predators, the stories that have stacked up against him are so numerous and so damning that it feels absurd that there was a time when the world didn’t know about this, that there was a time when publications didn’t run the story due to a lack of evidence.
But 10 months ago, when Asia Argento sat down with Ronan Farrow of The New Yorker to talk about her experience with Weinstein, there was still a lot to lose by coming forward. She was one of the 13 women Farrow spoke to, all of whom offered up eerily similar stories about the now-infamous details of their experiences with Weinstein: the hotel rooms, the robes, the fear they felt for their careers.
Earlier this week, when allegations surfaced that Argento sexually assaulted a minor, Jimmy Bennett, it felt, to many, like the ultimate betrayal. Argento and Bennett met in 2004, during the filming of The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, where Bennett, aged seven, played the role of her son. They stayed in touch over the years, with Bennett publicly referring to Argento as his “mum” and Argento calling him her “son”. The New York Times reported that Argento had paid Bennett $380,000 after he accused her of sexually assaulting him in a hotel room in California when he was 17 and she was 37. Argento has admitted to the payment, but has strongly denied the sexual-assault allegations, saying: “I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett”. But text messages, released this morning by TMZ, between Argento and a friend – along with a photo of the pair in bed – purport to confirm that Argento did have a sexual relationship with Bennett.
Since the initial Weinstein story broke, the number of women who have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct has swelled to over 80. But two of the women who were there, right at the beginning – their stories sitting alongside Argento’s – have spoken up about the allegations Argento is now facing.
It can’t be a coincidence that both women mentioned their sick and broken hearts
Rose McGowan, who accused Weinstein of rape, has been one of the most outspoken members of the #MeToo movement. On Monday, she tweeted out a statement, saying, “My heart is broken.”
She later tweeted another statement, calling for people to “be gentle” with Argento. "None of us know the truth of the situation and I’m sure more will be revealed. Be gentle," McGowan wrote. The tweet has since been deleted, as McGowan faced tremendous backlash for her statement, which many felt was a defence of Argento’s actions, a suggestion McGowan strongly contests.
Mira Sorvino, who was also interviewed by Farrow and accused Weinstein of sexual harassment, took to Twitter addressing the allegations against Argento. She wrote that she was still “reeling” from the news and that she was “heartsick” over the allegations. “Although hoping against hope that it is not true, here are my current thoughts,” she wrote. “I have been heartsick over the allegations against Asia Argento. Time will clarify things and perhaps she will be exonerated, but if true, there is no lens that makes it better.”
“Child sexual assault is a heinous crime and is against all that I and the MeToo movement stands for,” she continued. “I remain dedicated to fight for all victims and change the culture that encourages abuse of power in sexual relationships.”
The allegations against Argento have prompted almost every news outlet to run stories about whether these accusations will “derail the #MeToo movement”. Which – of course – it shouldn’t. But, if proven true, her actions, for a lot of women, will feel like a grand betrayal. Particularly coming from Argento, who told Farrow she wanted to “tell her story in all its complexity”. Hers wasn’t the neat narrative so many other women put forward; hers was a messy mixture of consensual and non-consensual encounters, a sexual relationship mired in guilt and obligation.
But for the women like McGowan and Sorvino, who have spent the past 10 months standing shoulder to shoulder with Argento, these revelations must hurt in a completely unimaginable way. It can’t be a coincidence that both women mentioned their sick and broken hearts. For them, and all the other Weinstein accusers, it must feel like more than a betrayal – it must feel like the most acute loss.