Content warning: this article contains information relating to sexual assault that may be distressing.
Since former Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins has come forward with her rape allegations, the media flurry has been swift. Much more swift that her former Party’s attempts to provide justice to her. In an interview that aired last night on The Project, Higgins spoke exclusively to journalist Lisa Wilkinson about her alleged rape in Parliament House and her feelings of “betrayal” in the aftermath.
Higgins alleged the rape occurred in March 2019, perpetrated by a male colleague in the office of the then-defence industry minister Linda Reynolds. Following the incident, she explained that she felt pressured not to speak out about it or go to the police.
“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,” she told Wilkinson.
WATCH: Brittany Higgins’ Interview With Lisa Wilkinson On The Project
“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.”
Higgins went on to explain that she was then faced with the choice of either working in Western Australia during the election campaign, or going home to the Gold Coast. Because it was her dream job, she 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,” she shared. “I was pretty suicidal, to be honest, […] because you are just alone. It was really hard.”
Senator Reynolds has denied that this choice was presented to Higgins, stating that “there was no indication from me at all that her job was at risk,” and that her own priority was to Higgin’s welfare.
Since the airing of the interview, however, a Four Corners reporter has come forward with some telling information. Sharing via social media, Louise Milligan explained that when it came to the Four Corners report on the culture of sexism, which you can watch here, Linda Reynolds was the only one who refused to speak.
“This was a surprise, because in the internal correspondence we had between Coalition Women on WhatsApp, Ms Reynolds was one of the most vocal in defending women’s rights in the party, [and], to be frank, in decrying the sexist attitudes of some of her male colleagues in the party,” Milligan continued.
The reporter explains that specific names were left out of the Four Corners expose because it was the content and the women’s frustration that was important. Scott Morrison has said that he wasn’t aware of the alleged rape until the story broke this week. Morrison has roundly faced criticism that his response was incredibly tone-deaf and hinged on a paternalistic trope that men can only care about women they’re related to. He admitted that his wife tried to encourage empathy by asking him to imagine if this had happened to one of his own daughters.
Milligan raised her own concerns: “I now feel that given it was said by Brittany in that interview that one of the few times the PM’s office “checked in” with her was around the time of the Canberra Bubble story, I now wonder what discussions were being had between that office and Ms Reynolds.”
At this stage, Higgins has plans to pursue a police complaint.