Fourth woman makes claim about former Liberal staffer
A fourth former Liberal staffer has accused the man who Brittany Higgins said assaulted her of making unwelcome advances in a bar and sliding his hand up her legs and stroking her thighs.
News.com.au has spoken to the woman about the claims previously, that were published today by the ABC’sFour Corners.
She does not claim to have been sexually assaulted by the man but has now made a statement to the Australian Federal Police in case her experiences are useful in the investigation.
After attending drinks in 2017 at Canberra’s Public Bar, she said she found herself wedged in a booth at the bar with the man who she barely knew and he shoved his hand under the table and stroked her thigh.
The woman, who was significantly older than the Liberal staffer, said it was completely uninvited and she was so shocked she left the bar without eating her dinner.
It comes after a third woman claimed she was sexually assaulted by the same former Liberal staffer accused of the rape of Ms Higgins in the ministerial wing of Parliament House.
The fallout from the alleged rape of Ms Higgins in 2019 in Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ office has dominated political discussion and parliamentary question time for a week since the news first broken on Monday, February 15 by news.com.au.
The new complainant, a Liberal Party volunteer who was barely out of school at the time, told The Australian that she was assaulted after a night drinking with the man.
She said he offered to “look after her” at his hotel just around the corner, after buying her rounds of double strength vodkas and three tequila shots.
She alleges that she woke up with her blouse buttons opened and her jeans pushed down and the staffer “lying on top of me”, and later discovered that she was bleeding after fleeing the room.
“I believe his actions on the night of 29 June and the morning of 30 June constitute sexual assault, because he performed or tried to perform sexual acts on me whilst I was severely intoxicated and unable to provide valid and informed consent,’’ she said.
The Australian newspaper reported that the third complainant had signed a statutory declaration to support her allegations. She had never had sex before the alleged attack.
“I was severely embarrassed about it and felt dirty and ashamed and I didn’t want to tell anyone,’’ she told the newspaper.
“Hearing Brittany Higgins’ story, it was so eerily similar, it made me think this person has a pattern of behaviour.’’
The Weekend Australian reported on Saturday that a second former Liberal staffer also alleged she was assaulted by the same man.
On Wednesday, the same day that Ms Higgins will provide her first formal statement to police, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds is scheduled to appear at the National Press Club where she is expected to face more questions over the handling of the incident that took place in her office in March 2019.
Senator Reynolds has not fronted a press conference or taken questions from journalists since the scandal over the Morrison Government’s handling of the matter first emerged after news.com.au published the explosive interview with Ms Higgins on Monday, February 15.
She has offered an unqualified apology for holding an employment meeting with Ms Higgins in the room she was allegedly raped just days after the incident but maintained she did not know at the time it involved a potential sexual assault.