Higgins ‘couldn’t scream’ during alleged rape
Brittany Higgins has said she was “waterlogged” and couldn’t call for help after waking up drunk while Bruce Lehrmann sexually assaulted her on a federal minister’s couch.
Higgins gave detailed evidence on Wednesday about what she said happened in senator Linda Reynolds’ office in the early hours of March 23, 2019.
She alleged Lehrmann sexually assaulted her in the Parliament House office after the pair had been out drinking with colleagues.
“I was lodged in between the arm rest and the back of the couch. My head was jammed in the corner,” she told the Federal Court.
During Lehrmann’s defamation trial against Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson over a report on The Project on the rape allegation, an emotional Higgins said she had woken up exposed with Lehrmann “lurched over” her.
“He was very much in the throes of it,” she told Justice Michael Lee.
“It just felt like he was doing it and it didn’t matter, like I was an afterthought.”
She said she told him to stop “on a loop” but felt “waterlogged and heavy” and couldn’t call out to security for help.
“I couldn’t scream like you see in the horror movies. I don’t know. I don’t know why I couldn’t,” she said.
After the alleged rape Lehrmann got off her and left without saying a word, she said. Higgins then passed out again, the court was told.
When she woke in the morning, she threw up in Senator Reynolds’ bathroom, tried to make herself look presentable, ate a box of chocolates from the staff kitchen, and grabbed a jumper from a goodwill box before leaving Parliament House.
She said she didn’t immediately tell anyone of the alleged sexual assault because she was still processing what had happened. Instead, she spent the weekend holed up at home ordering takeaway food.
“I was crying hysterically. I was distraught,” she said.
Back at work, Higgins said she was in a “very weird fugue state” and was disassociating herself from what had happened.
She first referred to the rape allegation in a meeting with then chief-of-staff Fiona Brown on March 26, 2019 and then to her friend and former-boyfriend Ben Dillaway by text on the same day.
Initially, she said she had tried to give Lehrmann the “benefit of every doubt”, believing that he may not have heard her saying no or that she may have led him on.
Despite this, she still wondered how he could leave her inebriated and passed out in the minister’s office.
Earlier on Wednesday, Higgins said Lehrmann had attempted to kiss her earlier after drinks about a week before the alleged rape.
On the Friday night in the hours before the alleged sexual assault, Higgins described Lehrmann as being “handsy” at 1980s-themed nightclub 88mph.
“I was dealing with him touching me. I didn’t want it but I was tolerating it,” she said.
Lehrmann was criminally charged in August 2021 over the alleged rape in Reynolds office in March 2019, which he denies.
His criminal trial in the ACT Supreme Court was derailed by juror misconduct and prosecutors did not seek a second trial, citing concerns for Higgins’ mental health.
A landmark report into the ACT legal system and the Higgins case in August made damning findings against former director of public prosecutions Shane Drumgold, which he has sought to challenge.
Lehrmann is also before Queensland courts accused of raping another woman twice in Toowoomba in October 2021.
He is yet to enter a plea. His lawyers have indicated he denies the charges.
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National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028