Brittany Higgins will reinstigate her police complaint after allegedly being raped at Canberra’s Parliament House in 2019.
CW: Sexual assault
Update: Four women have since come forward, accusing the former staffer who assaulted Brittany Higgins of sexual misconduct.
Brittany Higgins, a former media advisor for the then-defence industry minister Linda Reynolds, alleged on Channel Ten’s The Project that she was raped by a male colleague in Reynolds office after a night out in 2019, weeks before the 2019 election.
Higgins, who was 24 at the time, said she decided not to pursue a complaint with police as she felt that it would significantly affect her “dream job” as a Liberal party staffer.
“We were already coming up against so many blocks, and I realised my job was on the line. I didn’t feel like I had a choice,” Higgins told press. “There is a strange culture of silence in the parties … The idea of speaking out on these sorts of issues, especially around an [election] campaign, is just like letting the team down, you are not a team player.”
Furthermore, when given the option of working in Western Australia with Senator Reynolds or returning home to the Gold Coast after the alleged attack, Higgins said it was made clear her job would not be waiting for her after the election. “This was my dream job, I had worked my entire life to get here. I wanted this future … So I went to WA.”
“I was a part of Minister Reynolds’s WA-based team, up in a hotel room, but we were sort of working seven days a week. I was pretty suicidal to be honest at the time, because you are just alone. It was really hard,” she told press.
Higgins has now resigned and is living away from Canberra.
Let’s remember this Government has had 2yrs launch an internal investigation into the allegations made by #BrittanyHiggins and haven’t,that says it all. Ian
— 🔥IanGraves AC🏅 (@xskinn) February 15, 2021
“I think that resigning is the only thing I can personally do to say that I don’t think anyone else should go through what I went through.” However, on Monday Senator Reynolds told the Parliament she never forced Ms Higgins to choose between her job and make a police complaint.
“My only priority throughout this matter was the welfare of my then-staff member, and ensuring that she received the support that she needed,” Senator Reynolds said.
“There was no indication from me at all that her job was at risk and in fact as I said earlier it was my suggestion to her that she talk to the AFP and I facilitated that first meeting to ensure that she understood she had that option available to her.”
Higgins now plans to proceed with a police investigation in the upcoming weeks and initiate a formal complaint with the Department of Finance.
If this “high-flying senior staffer” is not arrested tomorrow and charged then this will continue to be an incident that not only shames parliament and those that tried to make it go away, but the entire nation. It’s an utter disgrace. #brittanyhiggins
— Lucie Morris-Marr (@luciemorrismarr) February 15, 2021
In the wake of the allegations, news.com.au also confirmed that the Department of Finance had sent cleaners into Senator Reynolds’ office the same day that Higgins was found ‘half-naked’ and disoriented on a couch in the office she alleges she was raped in.
Police had reportedly inquired into whether there had been an attempt to “interfere with a suspected crime scene.” However, the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) said the Australian Federal Police (AFP) investigation found that no “criminality” was involved in the clean as they did not know at the time about the potential sexual assault.
“The AFP has advised DPS that it had conducted enquiries into the action of DPS staff in the initial handling of the incident, including whether there was any criminality identified, such as attempts to conceal or interfere with a suspected crime scene,’’ the DPS spokesman told news.com.au.
“The AFP advised that there were no disclosures of sexual assault made by the complainant on the day of the incident and therefore actions taken by them (DPS) were not in response with a suspected crime”.
— 💧Kailani Mana (@mana_kailani) February 15, 2021
Higgins also says she was denied access to CCTV footage from Parliament house from the night of the alleged assault, even though another staffer had seen it.
Her then-Chief of Staff told Higgins that the visions showed her inebriated, having difficulty walking, and even signing her name when she was brought through the ministerial wing after midnight.
“It went from the very front entrance of where the taxi would have stopped all the way through going through security all the way up to the suite,” she said.
“I asked at least half a dozen times to see that CCTV … it really hurt, it felt like a betrayal for them to withhold this one really small thing I needed just personally to process, to move on or just to understand what had happened to me.”
If you’re not aware that it’s more common for people who report rape to be *talked out of going to police* than are encouraged to do so by bosses, colleagues & family members (where perps are part of that same group), you know nothing at all about rape.#BrittanyHiggins
— MFW (@MFWitches) February 14, 2021
A spokesperson for the DPS confirmed the vision was on file ready to give to the police.
Speaking to reporters in Canberra today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the alleged rape must serve as a driver of change within Parliament’s culture. “We all have a role to play in that. I do, members of this place do,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.
This 👇 was my question to @ScottMorrisonMP (& his answer) following the remark his wife Jenny told him to think about what he would want for their daughters if they were in Brittany Higgins’ position. @10NewsFirst @Studio10au #auspol pic.twitter.com/wHvX9K2VhU
— Tegan George (@tegangeorge) February 15, 2021
However, despite Morrison’s seemingly half-hearted sentiment, many have called out the Prime Minister with #ScottyTheMisogynist for many reasons surrounding Higgins’s experience.
Mainly, Morrison is being accused of having prior knowledge of the assault and bringing no awareness to the matter, and is being pilloried for his ‘damage control’ approach towards reporters – one that comes cross apathetic and tone-deaf.
And, in speaking out, he makes it about himself. Talks about Jen and the kids. He wasn’t the least bit concerned about it for the past two years, but now it’s damaging his brand.
— Daniel Best – Author (@20thCenturyDan) February 15, 2021
He revealed this morning that he spoke to his wife Jenny last night, prompting his further response. “She said to me, ‘You have to think about this as a father first. What would you want to happen if it were our girls?'” he said. “Jenny has a way of clarifying things.”
Hot tip, gents: when told about the brutal sexual assault of another person by a colleague in their place of work, you *don’t* have to think of it as a father first. Start with “as a human being with empathy” and then also end there. #ScottyTheMisogynist
— Andrew P Street (@AndrewPStreet) February 15, 2021
When asked why he had not been informed by either Senator Reynolds or other staff who knew about the incident, and whether he had a “don’t ask, don’t tell policy,” Morrison said he wasn’t made aware of the assault until recently.
“That is a very valid question and I can assure you I am not happy about the fact that it was not brought to my attention — and I can assure you people know that,” he said.
The men who can only relate to women via the women they are in fact related to (as a husband & father et al) reveal their own sexism & narcissism. They cannot see women as people in their own right, only through some connection to him!
— Jane Caro (@JaneCaro) February 15, 2021