Brittany Higgins felt 'trapped' during alleged rape in Australian parliament

October 05, 2022
Brittany Higgins, a former Liberal Party staff member addresses the media at the National Press Club on February 9, 2022
Brittany Higgins, a former Liberal Party staff member addresses the media at the National Press Club on February 9, 2022

CANBERRA — An Australian former political staffer said she felt "trapped and not human" during an alleged rape inside Parliament House in Canberra.

Prosecutors say Bruce Lehrmann sexually assaulted Brittany Higgins in March 2019 while she was drunk and asleep in the office of a government minister.

Lehrmann, 27, has pleaded not guilty and denies the pair had sex at all.

The trial in a Canberra court began this week and is expected to call on several high-profile witnesses.

In a recorded police interview played to the jury on Wednesday, Ms Higgins said she had woken up on a sofa to find Lehrmann - her colleague - having sex with her.

Crying, she told him "stop" and "no", Ms Higgins said in the interview from 2021.

"I wasn't screaming but there was obviously an urgency to it," she added. "He just kept going."

When it was over, Lehrmann quickly left the office, Ms Higgins said. "[There] was a strange moment of eye contact... I didn't say anything to him."

After waking up again hours later, with her dress bunched around her waist, Ms Higgins said she went home and cried all weekend.

The following week, she told a senior staff member she had been assaulted.

"It didn't feel real," she said in the police tape. "[But] the moment I vocalized it, it hit me."

Earlier, the court heard the pair had ended up in Parliament House after a night out with colleagues in Canberra.

By the time they left a second bar Ms Higgins told police she was "the most drunk I have been in my life".

She and Lehrmann were heading in the same direction, so agreed to share a ride. He said he had to stop at work to pick up something, she said.

"It didn't seem overly strange," Ms Higgins told the police interview. "At that point I was focused on not being sick."

Prosecutors have told the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court they will argue that Ms Higgins was so intoxicated she would have been unable to consent to sex.

But Lehrmann's barrister has told jurors the case was about the "reliability" and "credibility" of Ms Higgins, saying his client denied the two ever had sex, and that "the Australian public has been sold a pup with this story".

Earlier the court heard that Ms Higgins initially reported the incident to police in April 2019, but withdrew her complaint because she feared it would interfere with her job during an election campaign.

Almost two years later, in February 2021, she asked police to reopen the case after conducting interviews with two journalists, the jury was told. — BBC

October 05, 2022
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