In her first full statement since Jimmy Bennett’s sexual assault allegation against Argento was made public, McGowan expresses her sadness at losing a friend – and acknowledges that her lover leaked Argento’s texts.
Since the #MeToo movement went viral last autumn, Rose McGowan – who accuses Harvey Weinstein of raping her in the Nineties – has been one of the most prominent voices in the campaign. Over the course of her #MeToo activism, McGowan formed a friendship with fellow actor Asia Argento, who also says that she was raped by Weinstein. Together, the two women have been some of the most visible and outspoken proponents of the #MeToo movement.
But on 19 August, The New York Times published a report detailing allegations of sexual assault made against Argento by former child actor Jimmy Bennett – and a subsequent $380,o00 (£295,170) payoff. Although Argento initially denied ever having a sexual relationship with Bennett, who was 17 at the time of the alleged assault, texts leaked to TMZ later appeared to show her acknowledging that they had had sex. The story has prompted widespread discussions about the ways in which abuses of power can play out, and the dangers of believing simple stories about #MeToo heroes and villains.
Now, McGowan has released her first full-length statement about the allegations against Argento. In it, she expresses her sorrow at losing a friend, but emphasises that this case should not be allowed to derail the #MeToo movement.
“[T]he real focus should be on supporting justice. Supporting honesty. And supporting each other,” she writes, per Variety. “We cannot let this moment break the momentum of a movement that has freed so many people. We must use it to allow us to become stronger. More compassionate. More aware. And more organised.”
McGowan also reveals that it was her lover, the model Rain Dove Dubilewski, who took Argento’s texts to police – and calls on Argento to “do the right thing”.
“Many people believe that because [Argento and I] have been close in each other’s lives over the past year that perhaps I am affiliated with this incident or being complicit. I am not,” reads McGowan’s statement.
She explains that she and Argento became friends through the #MeToo movement thanks to their “shared experience of the HW [Harvey Weinstein] case”.
“Asia was a person who understood my trauma in a way that many others didn’t,” McGowan writes. “We were able to talk through them together and champion each other’s voices.”
However, McGowan says her perspective changed when Rain Dove showed her text messages from Argento. (Dove identifies as gender-nonconforming, and has previously said that they go by all gender pronouns including “he, she, them, or even it”; throughout McGowan’s statement, she refers to Dove as “they”.)
McGowan says she first introduced Dove to Argento in June, shortly after the suicide of Argento’s partner, Anthony Bourdain. The trio travelled to Berlin together, where Argento allegedly mentioned that “she was being extorted for a large sum of money every month by someone who was blackmailing them with a provocative image”. According to McGowan, neither she nor Dove knew at the time that Argento was referring to the Bennett case.
After the trip to Berlin, Argento and Dove kept in contact via text, McGowan says. But shortly before The New York Times published Bennett’s allegations of sexual assault, Dove came to McGowan and said she was going to take Argento’s text messages to police.
“They [Dove] said that they had been texting with Asia and that Asia had revealed that she had indeed slept with Jimmy Bennett,” McGowan says. “Rain also shared that Asia had stated that she’d been receiving unsolicited nudes of Jimmy since he had been 12.”
When Dove allegedly told McGowan that they were going to take Argento’s texts to the authorities, McGowan says she responded by saying: “You have to. You must.”
“I wasted no time,” she says. “It wasn’t hard to say or support. What was hard was the shell shock of the realisation that everything the #MeToo movement stood for was about to be in jeopardy.”
McGowan says she feels “sad to lose a friend connection” with Argento – “but what’s even more sad is what happened to Jimmy Bennett”. She also expresses her shock and confusion at the allegations, saying that they left her feeling “extremely humbled”, and led her to question her own approach to the #MeToo movement.
“I had to take a step back and realise that in my own activism while I fight hard with passion – I need to evolve,” she writes.
She continues: “There absolutely should be no leeway or tolerance for sexual assault. Hard stop. NONE … However as allies to the victim and voyeurs of an event we should find a better way to balance support of the victim with due process for the accused.”
McGowan concludes her statement by addressing Argento directly.
“Asia you were my friend. I loved you,” she writes. “You’ve spent and risked a lot to stand with the #MeToo movement. I really hope you find your way through this process to rehabilitation and betterment.
“Anyone can be better – I hope you can be, too. Do the right thing. Be honest. Be fair. Let justice stay its course. Be the person you wish Harvey could have been.”
Images: Getty Images