Third woman alleges sex assault by former govt staffer

 

A third woman has alleged that she was sexually assaulted by the same former Morrison government adviser accused of the 2019 rape of a female colleague in Parliament House.

According to an exclusive report in The Australian, the woman - a Liberal Party volunteer during the 2016 election campaign - alleged she was sexually assaulted after a night drinking with the then political staffer.

The woman, who claims the assault happened five years ago, spoke on condition of anonymity and reportedly supported her allegations with a statutory declaration. She told The Australian that she was not long out of school when she joined campaign volunteers just days before the election.

The woman said that the former male staffer had bought several rounds of "double strength" vodkas and three tequila shots for the woman over the course of a night.

She says she had never been drunk before and told the former staffer she was going to call an Uber and go home.

Brittany Higgins with Scott Morrison.
Brittany Higgins with Scott Morrison.

According to her account published in The Australian, the then staffer told her his hotel was "around the comer" and he could "look after me". She claims they then went back to his room where she passed out.

She alleges that she woke up, with her button-up blouse opened and her jeans pushed down and the staffer "lying on top of me" although she can't be clear as to whether he was "conscious or sleeping". She left the room and went to the hotel lobby toilet and noticed "I was bleeding", before going home.

"I believe his actions on the night of 29 June and the morning of 30 June constitute sexual assault, because he performed or tried to perform sexual acts on me while I was severely intoxicated and unable to provide valid and informed consent,'' she told The Australian.

The woman - who was a virgin at the time - said she did not go to police or tell friends or family because she was "severely embarrassed".

"I felt dirty and ashamed and I didn't want to tell anyone,'' she told The Australian.

"I later realised I was so drunk, I was not able to give any consent.

Brittany Higgins is speaking out to change the culture in parliament and politics.
Brittany Higgins is speaking out to change the culture in parliament and politics.

"Hearing Brittany Higgins' story, it was so eerily similar, it made me think this person has a pattern of behaviour.''

The Weekend Australian also reported on Saturday that another woman alleged she had been sexually assaulted by the former government staffer.

Mr Morrison said he was "sickened" and "upset" by the bombshell that a second Liberal staffer claimed she was raped by the same man allegedly involved in the Brittany Higgins scandal.

Mr Morrison said he became aware of the second incident, claimed to have occurred at the woman's home, only through the media.

"These events truly do sicken me, as they should anyone," Mr Morrison said. "I don't know who she is, nor do we need to know who she is. That is a very distressing event."

Mr Morrison said there was "significant work" to be done about the culture at Parliament House.

"We have a problem in the parliament and the workplace culture that exists there," he said. "This has been a challenging issue for many, many years. I think we would be naive to think it's not a challenge that other workplaces face all around the country. But I agree the parliament should be setting the standard."

Ms Higgins - who will talk to Australian Federal Police on Wednesday - claims she was raped in March 2019 by a fellow staff member in the office of their boss, then ­Defence Minister Linda Reynolds.

 

Liberal party staffer Brittany Higgins who has made shocking claims that she was raped whilst in the defence industry minister's office in Parliament House, Canberra. Picture: ABC News
Liberal party staffer Brittany Higgins who has made shocking claims that she was raped whilst in the defence industry minister's office in Parliament House, Canberra. Picture: ABC News

She said she had to discuss the issue with Senator Reynolds later in the same room, compounding her ­anguish. The Minister did not report it to the Prime Minister, who says he ­retains confidence in Senator Reynolds. The man left the job soon after.

Reports state the second woman met the alleged rapist while working on the 2016 federal election campaign, and that they had stayed in touch in the years since, including after he left Reynolds' office.

The second woman claims they met up last year for dinner and, after the former staffer bought her several drinks, the pair went to her home, where she was allegedly raped.

"If this (the Brittany Higgins incident) had been properly dealt with by the government in 2019 this would not have happened to me,'' she told The Australian newspaper.

But Mr Morrison said the government could not "force" someone to have a matter investigated by police.

"At all times the ministers who had knowledge of the incident that took place at Parliament House … sought to have the matter taken up and ­investigated by the police," Mr Morrison said. "They very much welcome the fact that is now occurring."

Ms Higgins last Friday announced she had re-engaged with Australian Federal Police and would proceed with a formal rape complaint. "I want a comprehensive police investigation into what happened to me in March 2019 and for my perpetrator to face the full force of the law," she said.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese accused the PM of treating the issue as a political, not a criminal, matter. He said Ms Higgins was "made to feel there would be consequences for her career if she pursued this matter".

"Violence against women and children is a scourge, it is prevalent in all areas of society, but the parliament of Australia should be setting an ­example," Mr Albanese said.

Originally published as PM 'sickened' by second Liberal staffer rape claim



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