Four women have now made a complaint about the same Liberal staffer who allegedly assaulted Brittany Higgins.
CW: The following piece discusses sexual assault and rape.
Per The ABC, “The woman, who made a formal report at a police station in Canberra on Sunday, has come forward after Ms Higgins alleged last week that she was raped in the office of the then-defence industry minister Linda Reynolds after drinks with the man in March 2019. The fourth woman, who for now wishes to remain anonymous, told the ABC that when she learned the identity of Ms Higgins’s alleged rapist through staffer networks, she winced — she remembered him as being ‘really sleazy’…socialising after work in 2017 with colleagues at Canberra’s Public Bar, the favoured drinking hole of the political class, the woman said she was startled when the man who would later be identified as the staffer who allegedly raped Ms Higgins reached his hand under the table and stroked her thigh. The woman said this was completely uninvited. Two other women — a Liberal staffer and a former Coalition volunteer — also made allegations to The Australian newspaper that they were sexually assaulted by the same former staffer.”
Former government staffer Brittany Higgins on Friday announced she will lay a formal complaint to trigger a police investigation into her alleged 2019 rape by a colleague in Parliament House.
In a statement, Higgins also said she had told Scott Morrison’s office she expected a voice in the framing of the inquiry into the conditions for ministers and staff.
Her statement came amid fresh allegations, based on April 2019 text exchanges, that Morrison’s office was made aware of the rape allegation soon after the incident.
On Saturday, The Weekend Australian reported that another woman, also a former Liberal party staffer, has come forward, stating that she was also raped by the man accused of sexually assaulting Brittany Higgins in Parliament House in 2019.
“If this had been properly dealt with by the government in 2019 this would not have happened to me,’’ she told the newspaper, on the condition of anonymity.
“I am telling my story because I want to support Brittany (Higgins) and I want to help shine a light on this awful culture.”
Asked about the April 2019 texts, Scott Morrison said he had received the advice from his office that it did not know until Friday of last week “and I’ve asked my department to actually look into that advice so I can be assured. I would like to know if there was anything different here, I would like to know.
“I want to know. And that’s why I’ve asked the secretary of my department to actually test that advice that I’ve received.”
In her statement, Higgins said: “Today I have reengaged with Australian Federal Police and will proceed with a formal complaint regarding the crime committed against me in what should be the safest building in Australia.”
Higgins spoke with the police at the time (of the incident – Ed), but did not lay a complaint. She has said she felt pressured to choose between pursuing the matter and safeguarding her career.
On Friday, Higgins said she sought to achieve two things by coming forward this week.
She wanted a comprehensive police investigation into what happened to her “and for my perpetrator to face the full force of the law”. The police had told her they would handle the matter thoroughly and transparently, and she also wanted it done in a “timely manner”. “I have waited a long time for justice,” she said.
“Secondly, given my experience, I am determined to drive significant reform in the way the Australian Parliament handles issues of this nature and treats ministerial and parliamentary staff more generally.
“I expect a truly independent investigation into how my matter was handled inside the government including offices where I worked, and other offices and parties that had knowledge of my circumstances.
“I believe that getting to the bottom of what happened to me and how the system failed me is critical to creating a new framework for political staff that ensures genuine cultural change and restores the trust of staff.
“In addition to an independent investigation into what happened to me, I demand a significant review into the conditions under which ministerial and parliamentary staff are employed and how we can do better.”
“The Prime Minister has repeatedly told the Parliament that I should be given ‘agency’ going forward.
“I don’t believe that agency was provided to me over the past two years but I seize it now and have advised the Prime Minister’s Office that I expect a voice in framing the scope and terms of reference for a new and significant review into the conditions for all ministerial and parliamentary staff,” she said.
“I was failed repeatedly, but I now have my voice, and I am determined to use to ensure that this is never allowed to happen to another member of staff again.”
“Too often, a toxic workplace culture can emerge that enables inappropriate conduct and this is exacerbated by the disparity in the power dynamics.”.