Morrison promised an investigation into the alleged rape and culture inside the country’s political capital, a day after the former employee went to the media with his story.
Brittany Higgins claims she was raped by a former colleague in the Secretary of Defense’s office after an evening work event in March 2019.
In an interview with Australia’s Network 10 show “The Project” on Monday, Higgins said she was trying to go home, but the unnamed colleague insisted they go to Parliament in a taxi to “pick up something” where she went out on a couch.
She told “The Project” that she woke up to find her colleague on top of her “rape” and when she repeatedly asked him to stop, he did not. Higgins has not publicly identified his alleged rapist.
Higgins said she spoke to police in early April 2019, but decided not to file a formal complaint while worrying about her career opportunities. “It’s just not the right decision for me personally, especially in light of my workplace demands,” she wrote according to Australian news.com.au. Canberra police confirmed to Reuters that they had spoken to a complainant in April 2019, but she chose not to make a formal complaint.
After Higgins told senior staff at Reynolds’ office about the alleged attack, she said in the interview that she was then asked to attend a meeting at the office where she says she was assaulted.
Secretary of Defense Linda Reynolds told parliament Monday she did not know the content of the allegations when she convened the meeting with her staff member and “had I known, I would have conducted the meeting elsewhere.”
“It should not have happened and I apologize,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra. “I want to make sure every young woman who works here is as safe as possible.”
According to Morrison, Prime Minister and official Stephanie Foster will investigate how complaints in the workplace in Parliament are handled. There will also be a separate study of workplace culture.
In a statement to CNN, Higgins said she had come forward “because I did not want what happened to me to happen to anyone else.”
While thanking Morrison for his apology, Higgins said the prime minister’s announcement of an inquiry into Parliament’s house culture was “long overdue.”
“It should not have taken my story or the story of other surviving victims to be broadcast on national television for the Prime Minister – or any Member of Parliament – to take action against sexual harassment, assault or bullying in the workplace,” she said in the statement.
Higgins’ accusations are the latest in a series of accusations from female members of the ruling Liberal Party who have put pressure from Morrison to take steps to improve the government’s workplace culture.
Last year, a former Liberal Party employee accused then-Immigration Minister Alan Tudge of inappropriate behavior, which he denies.
In his statement, Higgins called on Parliament to set up an independent reporting mechanism whereby complaints could be lodged confidentially.
“Finally, everyone should feel safe reporting sexual abuse without fear of losing their job. These incidents should not play out in the media until changes occur,” she said.
Additional reporting from Reuters and Hilary Whiteman.
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