Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins has declared the Morrison Government has “questions to answer” over its conduct in relation to an alleged rape and urged the Prime Minister not to engage in victim-blaming rhetoric.
The former young Liberal staffer alleged this week that she had been raped by a colleague in Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’s office in March 2019, and that the then-24-year-old felt forced to choose between her “dream job” and taking the matter to police.
Ms Higgins later moved to the office of Employment Minister Michaelia Cash’s office, with Ms Cash’s office claiming it only recently found out the specifics of the alleged rape, news.com.au reports.
Despite several meetings over this and how to handle it, Senator Cash says she never knew it was a sexual assault until recently.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has since offered her a personal apology for the way the matter was handled and announced a review of workplace culture, telling MPs in the party room they all had a responsibility to do better.
Ms Higgins issued a new statement today after questions emerged over her own account of contact from staffers working in the Prime Minister’s office and differing recollections of what occurred.
Ms Higgins said today that it was time the Government was held to account.
“The continued victim-blaming rhetoric by the Prime Minister is personally very distressing to me and countless other survivors,’’ she said.
“The Government has questions to answer for their own conduct.”
Ms Higgins said she was also shocked to learn new details of the night in question from media reporting.
News.com.au revealed this week that security guards working in Parliament said they had to unlock the door for the man that brought Ms Higgins to the Defence Industry Minister’s office on the night in question.
They returned to the office to check on her welfare after the man left and there was no sign of her, only to find her half naked and disorientated.
“I have only been made aware of key elements of my own sexual assault as a result of coming forward publicly with my story,’’ she said.
“I didn’t know that security guards let me into Minister Reynolds suite. I didn’t know that a security guard came into the office multiple times seeing me in a state of undress.
“I didn’t know they were undertaking an internal review into how the matter was handled at the time. I didn’t know that they debated calling an ambulance at the time of the incident.”
In the Senate, her former boss Employment Minister Michaelia Cash delivered an emotional speech describing Ms Higgins as a “valued employee”.
She revealed the detailed steps she took when she learned that a potential sexual assault was involved including urging Ms Higgins to go straight to the police.
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds remained under pressure but insisted she had done her best.
“Like everybody in this building, I stand, I still stand, ready to assist Brittany in any way that I can, and this begins and ends by allowing Brittany to guide this process, respecting her privacy and respecting the integrity of what is now a police investigation. She has indicated that she intends to pursue her complaint with the Australian Federal Police, and all of these matters go to the heart of that inquiry,’’ Senator Reynolds said.
text by Samantha Maiden, news.com.au