Brittany Higgins Rape Case: Here are 10 things to know about the on-going case which has shaken the Australian Parliament and raised concerns over the safety and dignity of women there.
The Australian Parliament has been in shambles since their former political staffer Brittany Higgins publicly alleged that she was raped inside the office of then-defence industry minister Linda Reynolds by a former but prominent Liberal Party staffer.
After the apology of PM Scott Morrison and various staffers openly supporting the claims made by Brittany, another recent development in the case is the formal filing of the complaint to the Australian Federal Police (AFP), as reported by the sources.
What is this high-profile political scandal all about? Here are 10 things to know about the case filed by Brittany Higgins:
- Brittany Higgins, an ex-government staffer stated in a televised interview on The Project with Network 10 on February 15, 2021, she spoke exclusively to journalist Lisa Wilkinson and recalled the distressing incident which happened in March 2019.
- She told that when she was new to the job, she went out for drinks with a group, including her alleged attacker who was an older male colleague. She was then offered a lift home by that man at the end of the night, but she claimed that he took her to Parliament. As she was drunk and had fallen asleep in the minister’s office, the accused took advantage of the situation and when she suddenly woke up from her slumber, she found him sexually assaulting her.
- She further revealed that she felt that she became ‘a political problem’ to the office of the Defence ministry when she informed them about the heinous incident. “It felt like I became… it immediately became a political problem. Reynolds [the defence minister] told me she would be supporting me if I pursued a police complaint, but I felt pressured not to, believing it would end my career.” She further said that the meeting with the minister was held in the room where the alleged attack took place.
- Moreover, she told that the man she accused was fired for a security breach for taking her into Parliament and leaving her there on a couch after a night of heavy drinking.
- She resigned from her post in January this year and then planned to reinstate her police complaint. “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,” she told in the interview.
- After Brittany recounted her trauma on television, it sparked outrage against the current ruling party and the opposition as well as the public questioned the safety and security of women in the work culture of the Parliament. The former further asked how PM Scott Morrison could continue to have confidence in Linda Reynolds as she hadn’t informed him of the alleged rape.
- On February 16, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison publicly apologised to Brittany and said, “That should not have happened, and I do apologise. It shatters me that still, in this day and age, a young woman can find herself in the vulnerable situation that she was in, not her doing. We have to do more, whether it’s in this workplace or any other workplace in the country, to ensure people can work safely in their place and be at their best and do what they went into that job to do.” He further added that he appointed government lawmaker Celia Hammond to investigate Parliament’s work-culture for the improvement and protection of the staff.
- Linda Reynolds, the defence minister, also apologised for not giving the much-needed support to Brittany. She said, “I deeply, deeply regret conducting the meeting in my office where the alleged incident occurred.” However, she also clarified that she never gave Higgins a choice between her job and making a police complaint.
- After the case received widespread attention, three other women have come forward and alleged that they were sexually harassed by the same man. Furthermore, the women, a Liberal staffer, a former Coalition volunteer and another woman with identity withheld, also revealed how the work culture of the Parliament enables and normalises sexual harassment.
- Brittany’s partner, David Sharaz has resigned from his job at a media monitoring company due to fear that the government will ‘punish the company he works for by scrapping government contacts’. He added that his bosses had been supportive and given him time off last week to support Brittany. However, he accepted that his job, which involves seeking government contracts, was no longer feasible to continue with because of the circumstances created by the political scandal.
Feature Image Credits: ABC