"There needs to be a change in culture and attitude so that that kind of behavior is so clearly reprehensible," Penn Badgley said

By Georgia Slater
June 24, 2020 10:12 AM
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Penn Badgley is speaking out about the sexual misconduct allegations against You costar Chris D'Elia, urging that systematic changes need to be made in order to stop similar behavior.

Multiple women came forward on Twitter last week with allegations that D'Elia — a 40-year-old stand-up comedian and actor who recently starred in Netflix's You — "groomed" them from their teen years and requested sexual photos via the internet. D'Elia has not been criminally or civilly charged.

"I know I have said and done things that might have offended people during my career, but I have never knowingly pursued any underage women at any point. All of my relationships have been both legal and consensual and I have never met or exchanged any inappropriate photos with the people who have tweeted about me," D'Elia said in a previous statement to PEOPLE.

"That being said, I really am truly sorry," he continued. "I was a dumb guy who ABSOLUTELY let myself get caught up in my lifestyle. That's MY fault. I own it. I've been reflecting on this for some time now and I promise I will continue to do better."

Penn Badgley, Chris D'Elia
| Credit: Adrian Edwards/GC Images; Christopher Polk/Getty Images

During a Monday interview for an upcoming episode of the Los Angeles Times podcast, Can't Stop Watching, Badgley shared his reaction to the news, calling the allegations against D'Elia "very disturbing." In season 2 of You, D'Elia played Henderson, a famous comedian who preyed on underage girls. (The character died during the season and will not return for season 3.)

"The idea that a show like ours would indirectly, unwittingly be a haven for people who are abusive is disturbing. It's very disturbing," Badgley said. "It did affect me deeply. I was very troubled by it. I am very troubled by it."

The 33-year-old actor continued, "There needs to be a change in culture and attitude so that that kind of behavior is so clearly reprehensible, it's so clearly, like, anti-human," adding that he tries to "uphold a certain level of conduct" in his own life.

"What is really important is to recognize that the policies that underwrite every given system — the practices, the regulations, the laws that underwrite every one of these systems which act as a haven for the individuals that take advantage, namely white men," he said. "I think that we need to remember that that is the level of change we're looking for."

Badgley told the Times that "the first thing" You producers did following the allegations was reach out to Jenna Ortega, who played Ellie, a teenager that D'Elia's character preyed on in the series, to make sure "she felt safe."

"We can feel safe and sound there," Badgley said.

Five women spoke about their claims to the Times in a story published on Saturday. In a statement to PEOPLE, Simone Rossi, one of the women who came forward on Twitter last week, explained why she decided to speak out.

"It took me a long time to realize what happened to me wasn't just a funny joke to tell at parties," she said. "I was being preyed on, and when you're that young, and especially when you're talking to someone so famous, you think it's cool and exciting. It took years until it finally clicked and I realized 'that seemed off.'"

Rossi, who said she began contact with D'Elia while she was in high school, told PEOPLE that she wishes she "could have told myself that it was more creepy than exciting."

"I wish I could have said to myself, 'Why do you think this much-older man is talking to a high schooler in Arizona?'" she said. "It's frustrating for myself that it took me so long to realize it wasn't normal or acceptable."

Rossi added: "As for what I would say to Chris, what can you say to someone who preys on young girls? To someone who tried to groom you, but also has possibly groomed and based on the stories others have shared with me, possibly assaulted other girls? I don't want to say 'Time's Up' out of fear of sounding cliche — isn't it odd how we as a society have driven a slogan that was supposed to help survivors into the ground — but it's true. Time is up. I won't let this happen to other young girls. I want him to know that I have a voice and I'm sure using it."

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to online.rainn.org.