Australia PM apologises for handling of woman’s claim she was raped in parliament

Brittany Higgins said she woke up mid-rape in 2019 in the office of Australia’s defence industry minister, Linda Reynolds

Adviser to Australian minister Brittany Higgins alleges she was raped in parliament by a colleague

Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, has apologised for the government’s handling of rape allegations of a woman staffer after she alleged being assaulted by a senior colleague in a minister's office in parliament.

Mr Morrison called it regrettable that she was brought to the same office for the formal employment meeting about the incident where the rape is said to have happened.

The former ministerial adviser, Brittany Higgins, said on Monday that she was raped by a colleague, whom she did not name in public, in the office of defence industry minister, Linda Reynolds, in 2019. She said she was 24 then and felt pressured against reporting it to the police to keep her job.

At the end of January, 2021, she resigned from the job and decided to pursue the police complaint.

The revelation by Ms Higgins in a TV interview shocked and angered some over her treatment after she alleged that officials tried to downplay her trauma when she revealed the assault.

On Tuesday, Mr Morrison announced a review of the professional culture of parliament to improve the working environment and said such an incident “should not have happened”.

”I hope Brittany's call is a wake-up call for all of us,“ he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

He said he would ask his aide to review the complaint procedure and provide an arm’s length process for any incidents involving assault or sexual crimes.

”I want to make sure that any young woman working in this place is as safe as possible,” he said.

The prime minister specifically apologised to Ms Higgins for the meeting with Ms Reynolds in 2019 to discuss the incident, calling it regrettable.

Ms Reynolds also offered her apology to her former adviser on Tuesday, saying she “deeply regrets” holding the meeting at the location where the alleged rape took place and claimed she was unaware of the full extent of the allegations at the time.

Mr Morrison was criticised for saying that he understood the situation of Ms Higgins better after considering it as a father of two girls, following a conversation with his wife.

“Jenny and I spoke last night, and 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?’” Mr Morrison said, reported news.com.au.

Several people, including authors and activist, slammed the prime minister for his statement, saying women should be treated with respect and dignity regardless.

“Women should not have to rely on their boss having a daughter to be safe at work”, Michele O'Neil, president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, said in a tweet.

Ms Higgins, 26, on Monday went on record to talk about her rape in public. She said she went out for drinks with a group just a few weeks into her “dream job” in the office of Ms Reynolds.

According to Ms Higgins, her attacker, an older colleague, offered her a lift home but instead took her to Parliament House. She was drunk and fell asleep in the minister’s office.

”I woke up mid-rape essentially,“ she told Network Ten. ”I started crying... I told him to stop.“

She said she informed her employer, claiming that Ms Reynolds's office tried to “manage” the situation instead of taking action.

”It felt like I became... it immediately became a political problem,“ she said, adding that though Ms Reynolds offered support in filing a complaint but she felt pressured to do otherwise and feared losing her job.

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