A Liberal Party staffer has gone public with allegations she was raped by a colleague inside Parliament House, and was later pressured into choosing between keeping her job, or reporting the assault to police.
Brittany Higgins alleges she was raped by another Liberal Party staffer in March 2019, when she was 24 years old.
She told News.com.au she had been drinking with colleagues the night the alleged rape occurred. She alleged that the man – who was not named by the publication – reportedly bought several rounds of drinks, before suggesting they share a taxi home together as they lived in the same direction.
Instead, he took her to Parliament House, signing her in as she didn’t have her security pass.
The last thing Higgins says she remembers was sitting on a window ledge in Reynolds’ ministerial office. She woke up to the staffer on top of her.
“I woke up mid-rape,” she told News.com.au.
“I told him to stop. I was crying. He wasn’t even looking at me. It felt like I was sort of a body that was there. It didn’t feel like it was anything about me.”
She was found the next morning by a parliamentary security guard. The man who allegedly assaulted her had left her in a state of shock, and, according to Higgins, never made any attempt to contact her again.
At the time of the alleged assault, Higgins had been working in the office of then Defence Industry Minister Linda Reynolds for just four weeks.
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds. Photo: Facebook.
It was shortly before PM Scott Morrison called the election, and Higgins said she felt the pressure of not making an official report out of a desire to protect the Liberal Party’s chances at the ballot box.
“It was just about my job,” Higgins told News.com.au.
“If it had happened on a street corner away from parliament there was no doubt in my mind. Of course. Of course.”
At first, according to News.com.au’s reporting and a statement from Reynolds’ office, the department thought they were dealing with a case of a security breach, given the staffers had entered an office that contains highly classified info after hours.
However, in a meeting about that breach, Higgins disclosed her alleged assault to a senior member of Reynolds’ staff.
According to Higgins, that set off a chain of events, which saw her called to a meeting in the very room she was allegedly raped in, and asked what she wanted to do about it.
During that meeting, she claims Reynolds expressed “standard” concern for her, and made comments along the lines of: “As women, this is something we go through.”
Ultimately, Higgins resigned from Reynolds’ office, and is currently working for Employment Minister Michaelia Cash.
The fallout, however, is part of the reason why she’s speaking out: to change the parliamentary work culture.
She claims she was pressured into choosing between making an official complaint, and keeping her job.
“As soon as Linda Reynolds had that meeting, she never brought it up with me again. And then everyone else (in the office) just started kind of going, ‘Well, you can go to the Gold Coast? You can go home. You can take a payout and go home or you can come with us to WA’.
“And I asked them. I said, ‘Well if I got to the Gold Coast, opposition or we win, what happens then?’ They said, ‘You won’t come back’.
“You just don’t question it. Everyone is kind of broadly your boss. You know how easy it is to get rid of you.”
Following the News.com.au report, the government issued a statement saying it “regrets in any way if Ms Higgins felt unsupported through this process.”
— Samantha Maiden (@samanthamaiden) February 15, 2021
According to journalist Samantha Maiden, who broke the story, the PM’s office is now “distressed” about the rape allegation. Reynolds has yet to apologise for the way her office handled the complaint.
And it looks like this story isn’t going away anytime soon – Higgins will be appearing on The Project on Monday night.
Help is available. If you require immediate assistance, please call 000. If you are in distress, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or chat online. If you’d like to speak to someone about sexual violence, please call the 1800 Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat online. Under 25? You can reach Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 or chat online. You can also reach the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or chat online.