Australian police to charge man in Brittany Higgins rape case


MELBOURNE, Australia – Months after a former Australian government employee said she was raped in Parliament, police said on Friday they intended to charge a man with sexual assault in the case .

Former government worker Brittany Higgins, 26, sent shockwaves across the country when she said earlier this year that she was assaulted by a coworker in 2019. He offered her to take home after drinks with colleagues, she said. but instead assaulted her when she fell asleep in the defense minister’s office. At the time, she had just had a new job for a few weeks with then Defense Minister Linda Reynolds.

The accusation sparked a debate over the culture of misogyny in the country’s halls of power, and women’s advocates criticized some of the country’s most powerful politicians for mishandling the allegations.

After Ms Higgins went public, three other women made allegations that they had been sexually assaulted by the same man. Over the following months, many female politicians and staff, current and former, shared their own accounts of inappropriate behavior by male colleagues.

Police in the Australian Capital Territory said on Friday they notified a 26-year-old man to appear in Canberra court on September 16 to face a sexual assault charge.

“Police will claim that the man had sex with a woman without her consent in parliament on Saturday March 23, 2019,” authorities said in a statement. declaration. Maximum sentence for the crime is 12 years in prison, police say

A phone call and email to Ms Higgins’ attorney seeking comment was not immediately returned. Neither Ms Higgins nor the police have publicly named the man.

His attorney, John Korn, said in a statement to local media, “My client absolutely and unequivocally denies that any form of sexual activity took place. He will defend the prosecution. In a brief message on Friday evening, Mr Korn confirmed that he made the statement.

The police announcement sparked a wave of support for Ms Higgins on social media.

Janine Hendry, the main organizer of protests in at least 40 cities earlier this year against sexual violence, posted on twitter, “It took a long time…. #EnoughIsEnough # March4Justice.

Ms Higgins said she surrendered to police in 2019 after the attack and told Ms Reynolds and other staff what happened. But she dropped the case, she said, because she felt she might lose her job if she sued him. She said she was even invited to a meeting about her allegations in the same room where she said the assault took place. She decided to file an official police report in February.

Since Ms Higgins’ public accusation, the government has launched numerous inquiries into parliamentary workplace culture, which women’s rights advocates have long called toxic and misogynistic.

Last month the government accepted a recommendation one of these reviews, that one-hour in-person training sessions on sexual harassment should be mandatory for politicians, although there are few consequences for those who do not attend.

Other recommendations he accepted included an independent complaints mechanism for staff members and restricted after-hours access to Parliament.

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