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#MeToo Leaders Rose McGowan and Tarana Burke Distance Themselves From Asia Argento

Argento—a Weinstein victim and one of the leading voices in the movement—reportedly paid off an underage actor who accused her of sexually abusing him.

Jamie Ross8.20.18 10:36 AM ET

Leading figures in the #MeToo movement are reeling following a report that one of its most prominent activists, Asia Argento, previously settled a sexual assault complaint filed against her by an actor who was underage at the time.

Movement founder, Tarana Burke, and Rose McGowan, one of the actresses to publicly accuse Harvey Weinstein, have distanced themselves from Argento, urging people not to let the news undermine the fight for sexual abuse victims.

Italian actress and director Argento was among the first women in the movie business to publicly accuse Weinstein of sexual assault. Her accusation, along with McGowan’s, started the process that made the movie mogul a symbol of male power abuse. He may now face life in prison.

The New York Times reported Sunday that Argento quietly arranged to pay $380,000 to her own accuser, who said she had sexually assaulted him in a California hotel room years earlier. He was 17 at the time—the age of consent in California is 18. She was 20 years his senior at 37.

Fellow Weinstein victim and prominent #MeToo activist McGowan wrote: “I got to know Asia Argento ten months ago. Our commonality is the shared pain of being assaulted by Harvey Weinstein. My heart is broken. I will continue my work on behalf of victims everywhere.”

But she later sounded a note of caution, saying: “None of us know the truth of the situation and I’m sure more will be revealed. Be gentle.”

Burke, who founded the #MeToo movement in 2006 before it became a much wider group in the wake of the Weinstein accusation in 2017, said the news was a timely reminder that the movement includes men and that sexual abuse is about an imbalance of power.

“I’ve said repeatedly that the #metooMVMT is for all of us, including these brave young men who are now coming forward,” wrote the #MeToo founder. “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.”

Burke added: “Sexual violence is about power and privilege. That doesn’t change if the perpetrator is your favorite actress, activist or professor of any gender. And we won’t shift the culture unless we get serious about shifting these false narratives.”

The civil rights activist also urged people not to let the news allow others to discredit the movement they’ve worked to create, writing: “People will use these recent news stories to try and discredit this movement—don’t let that happen. This is what Movement is about. It’s not a spectator sport.”

According to the court documents, the alleged abuse of the young actor and musician by Argento in 2013 began a spiral of emotional problems. His lawyer claimed that it hindered his work and income and threatened his mental health, and he asked for $3.5 million in damages for the intentional infliction of “emotional distress, lost wages, assault and battery.”

In October 2017, about a month before he sent his demand, a New Yorker article named Argento among 13 women who accused Weinstein of harassment and rape. She quickly went on to become a powerful voice for women who had been abused by men in positions of privilege.

In May, she made headlines with an emotional speech at the Cannes Film Festival in which she called the festival Weinstein’s “hunting ground.” She said he had raped her there in 1997, when she was just 21.

Argento has not yet commented on the payoff.