Brittany Higgins, the former Liberal Party staffer who alleged she was raped inside Parliament House, has opened up about her story on The Project.
Higgins claims that on March 23, 2019, she had been drinking with colleagues and was taken back to Parliament House while intoxicated. In the office of her boss, then-Defense Industry Minister Linda Reynolds, she began to fell unwell and laid down on the couch. She woke up with her colleague allegedly on top of her, raping her.
Much of the interview recounted the same series of events she told News.com.au earlier on, Higgins also touched on new points which reveal the situation to be even worse than many people first realised.
Both stories have prompted the government to finally comment on the issue.
“The government takes all matters of workplace safety very seriously. No one should feel unsafe in a workplace,” a spokesperson said.
“The staff member was told that if they did choose to pursue a complaint, they would have the full and ongoing support of the office and the Minister. This offer of support and assistance remains.”
Here are the new details Higgins shared about her ordeal, and what’s happened since.
Police first realised something had happened on the night because it was technically a security breach.
The following week, Higgins said she was approached by her boss’ Chief of Staff Fiona Brown, who was on a secondment from Scott Morrison‘s office, to talk about what had happened.
Higgins said Brown told her that “internal mechanisms were already at play.”
That was referring to the parliament’s own police force, which is separate from the ACT Police.
Some say, however, that they weren’t the best people to be investigating the allegations.
“Parliament jealously guards its protections, doesn’t like outside interference and as a result sets up systems and laws that preserve its ability to function free of interference,” constitutional expert Professor George Williams told The Project.
It was only later that the incident was elevated to the ACT’s own sexual assault crimes unit, which Higgins said was much better and included support form a rape crisis counselor.
Higgins said Reynolds did encourage her to speak with police, but that it “felt like a weird HR ‘ticking a box’ moment.”
The CCTV Footage
Higgins still hasn’t seen the CCTV footage from that night, even though others have. Every time she ask, her request was denied.
“So it was the strange thing where it felt like everyone had all this information on my own assault and I didn’t have any and I desperately wanted to see it,” Higgins said.
“I asked at least half a dozen times to see that CCTV and she always said no.
“It hurt. It really hurt. It felt like a betrayal for them to withhold this one really small thing they needed for myself to process to move on or just to understand what had happened to me.”
The ACT Police also had trouble accessing the CCTV footage. It was only recently that the Parliament House authorities handed the footage over to investigators, almost two years after the alleged rape.
While people inside Parliament did know about Higgins’ case, she says very few people actually reached out to her.
Higgins said that aside from Fiona Brown, the only other person from the Prime Minister’s office to reach out to her was the PM’s principal private secretary Yaron Finkelstein, a.k.a. “The Fixer”.
His job, she explained, is essentially to sort out Morrison’s problems.
Finkelstein allegedly told Higgins: “Just checking in.”
She said it’s not normal for a junior staffer to get a call from the PM’s “fixer” and that the timing seemed to coincide with a Four Corners episode about Canberra’s culture covering up sexual misconduct allegations among politicians and parliamentary staff.
Higgins said she was unable to keep on working in the same building in which she was allegedly raped, and thus resigned from her “dream job”.
The alleged rapist, however, apparently didn’t have to make such a sacrifice.
“He’s fine. He’s working in Sydney, he’s got a good job,” Higgins said.
“People don’t know why he left and I don’t think he’s suffered any consequences for it at all. I think he just kind of got to keep going.”
Host Lisa Wilkinson summed things up bluntly: “If everything that you say is true, it sounds to me like the easiest place in this country to rape a woman and get away with it is Parliament House in Canberra.”
Help is available.
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