June 08, 2018 01:07 PM

At the time of his death by apparent suicide on Friday, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain was most recently linked to Italian actress and director Asia Argento. The two started dating in 2016 after meeting on season 8 of his CNN travel show Parts Unknown.

“[Asia] has spent a lifetime in film since she was 9 years old,” Bourdain told PEOPLE in an 2017 interview. “She comes from generations of filmmakers on both sides of the family. She’s a really accomplished director and writer along with being a longtime actress and a real sponge for culture, music, literature. So she’s enormously helpful and inspiring.”

Argento, 42, is the daughter of actress Daria Nicolodi and director and producer Dario Argento. At age 9, Argento made her acting debut with a small part in Sergio Citti’s Italian miniseries Sogni E Bisogni and went on to work steadily, including appearances in horror films directed and written by her dad. In those films, a young Argento would get raped, undress and traumatized onscreen.

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

“I wasn’t upset by the things he did to me in his films,” she admitted to The Guardian in 2005. “I never thought of it like it was me doing it, because he would say, ‘It’s only a movie,’ and I thought the same.”

By the time Argento turned 21, she’d won the Italian equivalent of two Oscars and broke big in the U.S. with 2002’s xXx, also starring Vin Diesel. The mother of two children with her ex-husband Michele Civetta continued to work steadily in both markets, but it was a 1997 incident that has made news most recently.

In an October New Yorker piece by Ronan Farrow, Argento accused Harvey Weinstein of raping her after his then-company Miramax distributed her crime romance B. Monkey (released in Germany in 1999). (Weinstein has “unequivocally” denied “any allegations of non-consensual sex”). She recounted being invited by a producer to a party in his room at the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc in France, only to arrive and find herself along in a room with Weinstein. He asked Argento for a massage, and once she reluctantly obliged, the movie mogul allegedly “pulled her skirt up, forced her legs apart, and performed oral sex on her as she repeatedly told him to stop.”

Argento referred to that evening as a “nightmare” and even wrote a movie about the incident. “After my rape, I started developing PTSD,” she told Rolling Stone of her 2000 drama Scarlet Diva. “I couldn’t leave the house, and that’s why I had to start writing.”

RELATED VIDEO: Asia Argento Tells Uma Thurman ‘We Need’ Your Voice After Her Response to Weinstein Goes Viral

The filmmaker alleges that Weinstein — now 66 and indicted last week on charges of rape in the first and third degree as well as criminal sexual act in the first degree — continued to contact her around the time of xXx‘s release, hoping she wouldn’t say anything about their time together. But ever since deciding to use her name in Farrow’s expose, Argento has continued to advocate for ending the gender inequality in Hollywood — and Bourdain had stood by her side.

“I am proud and honored to know you,” he tweeted after the article was published. “You just did the hardest thing in the world.”

Though Argento feels she did the right thing by coming forward, she lives in fear.

“I’m afraid to leave my apartment,” she continued to Rolling Stone. “I am still afraid. I am more afraid now that I know everything that they had on me Rose [McGowan], Rosanna [Arquette], Annabella [Sciorra], all the women he had hurt. He knew who they were. But most importantly, now we know who they are.”

Argento with McGowan.
Anthony Bourdain

Nonetheless, Argento pushed forward with Bourdain’s support. She spoke last month at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival — the same place where she first encountered Weinstein on that night in 1997 — and called out her alleged abuser. “This festival was his hunting ground,” she told the audience at the festival’s closing ceremony on May 19. “Even tonight, sitting among you, there are those who still have to be held accountable for their conduct against women.”

Bourdain praised her speech, telling IndieWire, “It was absolutely fearless to walk right into the lion’s den and say what she said, the way she said it. It was an incredibly powerful moment, I thought. I am honored to know someone who has the strength and fearlessness to do something like that.”

While it’s not confirmed whether they were still together when Bourdain was found dead at 61 at the Le Chambard hotel in France — Argento was seen with another man just three days prior — she’d liked his penultimate Instagram post on Tuesday and posted an ominous, since-deleted Instagram story on Thursday wearing a t-shirt that said, “F— EVERYONE.”

“Anthony gave all of himself in everything that he did,” she wrote in a statement posted to social media on Friday. “His brilliant, fearless spirit touched and inspired so many, and his generosity knew no bounds. He was my love, my rock, my protector. I am beyond devastated. My thoughts are with his family. I would ask that you respect their privacy and mine.”

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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