Third woman alleges sexual assault by same former staffer accused of raping Brittany Higgins

Third woman alleges sexual assault by same former staffer accused of raping Brittany Higgins

Note: This story discusses sexual assault.

A third woman has alleged she was sexually assaulted by the same government staffer accused of sexual assault by two other women, including Brittany Higgins.

The woman alleged she was sexually assaulted after a night out drinking five years ago, during the 2016 election. She was a volunteer for the Coalition during the election campaign, and said she was barely out of school at the time.

The woman said she woke up to the man “lying on top of me” and that he “performed or tried to perform sexual acts on me whilst I was severely intoxicated and unable to provide valid and informed consent.”

The allegations from the woman, who spoke anonymously to The Australian, come after a second woman alleged she was also sexually assaulted last year by the same political staffer accused by Brittany Higgins. This second woman suggested she may never have been assaulted had the government supported Higgins in 2019.

“If this had been properly dealt with by the government in 2019 this would not have happened to me,’’ she told The Australian.

“I am telling my story because I want to support Brittany (Higgins) and I want to help shine a light on this awful culture.”

Last week, former Liberal party staffer Brittany Higgins alleged she was raped in March 2019 in the office of then defence minister Linda Reynolds.

Higgins, who said she felt she was forced to choose between going to the police or keeping her job in parliament house, has accused Prime Minister Scott Morrison of using “victim-blaming rhetoric” and said she expects a “truly independent investigation” into how this incident was handled inside the government.

“The prime minister has repeatedly told the parliament that I should be given ‘agency’ going forward,” she said in a statement. “I don’t believe that agency was provided to me over the past two years but I seize it now.”

“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.”

Higgins is preparing to make an official statement to the Australian Federal Police on Wednesday to relaunch an investigation into her case.

Over the weekend, four former female Liberal MPs with a combined 65 years of experience in Australian parliament, spoke out about the “toxic” culture in politics, and demanded reforms to workplace conditions for staff. Judi Moylan, Sharman Stone, Judith Troeth and Sue Boyce all expressed their horror at the government’s handling of Brittany Higgins’ alleged rape.

On Tuesday, Scott Morrison told parliament that his office was only made aware of Higgins’ case on February 12, 2021, but mounting evidence, including a text message exchange between a staffer and Brittany Higgins, has undermined that account.

On the 3rd April 2020, Higgins received a text message from a Liberal staffer saying: “Spoke to PMO. He was mortified about it and how things have been handled. He’s going to discuss with COS – no one else. I flagged the need for a councillor and desire to be closer to home during election”.

This message is dated two days after Higgins was called in to a meeting with Reynolds to discuss the situation, in the same room Higgins was allegedly raped in.

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