‘Trapped, not human’: Brittany Higgins tells court the moment of alleged rape

Brittany Higgins has told a jury she thought she would not be believed because of the workplace disparity between herself and her accused rapist.

Oct 05, 2022, updated Oct 05, 2022
Former Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Former Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Higgins also described the moment she was allegedly raped by a colleague on a couch inside a former minister’s parliamentary office.

Higgins is the first witness in the trial of the man accused of raping her inside a minister’s office at Parliament House in March 2019.

Bruce Lehrmann has pleaded not guilty to sexual intercourse without consent.

The pair worked as Liberal Party staffers – she in an admin role and Lehrmann as an adviser – in the office of former defence industry minister Linda Reynolds.

The pair had been out drinking with colleagues the previous Friday night and returned to Parliament House in the evening on the way home.

Lehrmann had told Higgins he needed to pick up some documents from the office.

She alleges after the two of them entered Senator Reynolds’ office she fell asleep on a couch and woke up to Lehrmann having sex with her.

Higgins said she felt “trapped, not human” as Lehrmann hovered over her, grunting and making noise.

She said she started crying and told him to stop but he continued.

When she returned to work, Higgins told police she feared she would be fired because she and Lehrmann had been in the office after hours which had been flagged as a security breach.

“I knew what had happened to me was wrong, I knew I hadn’t consented,” she said.

She told police when she identified the incident as a sexual assault to her former chief of staff, “the gears shifted”.

“It became less about me and more political in a sense,” she said.

In a police interview from February 2021 played for the jury on Wednesday, Higgins detailed having to return to work the Monday following the alleged incident.

She told police she didn’t think anyone would believe her story and figured Lehrmann’s words carried more weight than hers because of his more senior role.

“He was in the office on Monday … He didn’t seem ashamed (or) upset,” Higgins said.

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“It just didn’t feel like something he wanted to address.”

Lehrmann is being tried in the ACT Supreme Court, overseen by Chief Justice Lucy McCallum.

The jury has heard police interviews with Higgins conducted two years after the event.

Higgins described herself to police “as drunk as she’d ever been” in her life the night of the alleged incident.

She admitted to police her recollection of the night was patchy.

Prosecutor Shane Drumgold SC flagged more than 50 witnesses could be called to give evidence during the trial, which is expected to last between four and six weeks.

Among the witnesses are Liberal senators Linda Reynolds and Michaelia Cash, former Liberal MP Steven Ciobo as well as other political and parliamentary staff.

Defence lawyer Steven Whybrow told the jury Higgins’ allegations had not been tested or proven and Lehrmann denied having sex with her.

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