MELBOURNE, Australia – The report by a former government staffer on rape in the Australian Parliament building sent shock waves through the country’s power halls on Monday, while the ruling Conservative party came under criticism over the way it handled the matter.
Proponents of women’s rights call it an extreme example of what has long been described as a culture of misogyny that has pushed several women out of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s coalition government.
They said the case reflects an environment that is stubbornly resistant to change driven by the global #MeToo movement, one in which men make sexist remarks about female appearance and female collaborators, or worse.
Former staff member Brittany Higgins, now 26, said she was attacked almost two years ago after a night out with colleagues. Ms Higgins, who was in a maintenance published on news.com.au on Monday, was in a new position as media adviser to Defense Secretary Linda Reynolds weeks ago.
According to her, a male colleague was offered a ride home that is widely regarded as a rising star in the Liberal Party. Instead, he diverted the taxi driver to the parliament building, where he led her to an office, and, according to her, assaulted her after she fell asleep on a bench in the defense minister’s office.
Me. Higgins, who told news.com.au that she drank a lot that night, woke up to ‘mid-rape’, she said. She told her attacker to stop, but he did not look at her, she said. She did not identify the man in public.
She said that she me. Reynolds quickly notified, along with more than a dozen others, including members of parliament.
In response to a call from The New York Times, Ms. Higgins’ partner emailed comments from her. Higgins said that although she initially filed charges with the police, she later dropped them due to internal pressure from the party. According to her, it was decided to go between the police and keep her job.
“They deliberately made me feel like I was going to lose my job so I would not go to the police,” she said. Higgins wrote. “They tried to silence me, and I think that’s so wrong,” she added, describing a workplace in which victims are often blamed when they speak. “It was so rude, and it was so contemptuous,” she added.
Documents reviewed by The Times confirmed that Higgins closed the case with police in April 2019, citing ‘current workplace demands’.
The case remains open, but it is not being actively investigated as there is no formal complaint from me. Higgins was not, according to a statement from police in the Australian capital.
The government, calling the allegations “deeply disturbing”, said in a statement to the news media that it “regrets at all that Ms Higgins feels unsupported by this process.” But it claims that she was by me. Reynolds was encouraged to speak to police “to assess the options available.” The defense minister did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
One in six women in Australia over the age of 15 has experienced sexual violence, according to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The figure has grown over the past decade, but it is unclear whether this is because assaults are increasing or because a larger percentage of assaults are reported.
Another remarkably low number of women being attacked are coming to the police, lawyers say. For those who do, it is a lengthy and taxing process, in which privacy laws and courts stifle the voices of those who need to be heard the most, critics say.
The attack took an emotional toll on her, she said. Higgins said in her email. “I was silent for so long,” she wrote. “I just kept quiet in every aspect of my life.”
Me. Higgins said she decided to speak out afterwards an investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation sheds light on sexual misconduct within the Liberal Party. She later resigned her job.
The accusations are seen as further damning evidence of the Liberal Party’s reputation for being hostile to women in its ranks, say politicians and women’s rights.
“Once again, the House of Representatives is proving to be the most unsafe, toxic workplace culture for women in the country,” tweeted Julia Banks, a former coalition government member who left the party in 2018. with reference to a sexist workplace.
The behavior can vary from what many people simply call sexist – as when Mr. Morrison came under fire for interrupting a female colleague – to insult, as then-Senator Sarah Hanson-Young filed a defamation suit against a male lawmaker who she said said was “stopping hacking men.”
Regarding rape, Nina Funnell, a leading advocate for survivors of sexual assault in Australia, said: ‘It is a crime riddled with power and control, so it is not at all surprising to hear that young women are experiencing of sexual violence. which takes place in places where male privilege and power are coded in the walls. ”
“Criminals often take potential victims to places where they feel their power is protected,” she added.
Mrs Higgins said she hoped to bring about change in Parliament’s work culture by going public. She recalled being invited to a meeting about her case – in the same room where she said the assault took place.
The government acknowledge Monday that the meeting “given the seriousness of the incident should have taken place elsewhere.”