Brittany Higgins has told a court she wore the same dress from the night she was allegedly raped at Parliament House to a Liberal Party event months later in an attempt to “reclaim” the favourite garment.
The ex-Liberal staffer testified in the Federal Court on Friday as part of Network Ten’s defence to allegations by her former colleague Bruce Lehrmann that a February 2021 report, which aired claims of the alleged rape, was defamatory.
The alleged sexual assault is said to have occurred in the parliamentary office of Higgins’ then boss, senator Linda Reynolds, early on March 23, 2019.
Lehrmann denies any sexual intercourse or intimacy occurred.
On Friday, Lehrmann’s counsel, Steven Whybrow SC, queried Higgins over the thought process of wearing the dress from the night of the alleged rape to a Liberal birthday party function of Reynolds in Perth, in May 2019.
“It was my favourite dress, I used to wear it all the time,” Higgins said, adding that wearing the garment to the function was an attempt to “reclaim” it and “shake off” its associations.
“I never could,” she said of the dress’s links to the alleged rape.
Quizzed over why she did not mention its associations in texts to the man she was seeing at the time, Higgins said: “I would never message him stuff like that.”
“We didn’t have that type of relationship,” she said.
Higgins rejected, when questioned over a timeline of events prepared in January 2021 and given to police and media, that she cast Reynolds and her acting chief-of-staff Fiona Brown as “villains in this story”.
Higgins said she did not view Reynolds or Brown as “bad people”.
“I didn’t need to feed any story,” said Higgins, who also dismissed claims of an attempt to impact an upcoming federal election at the time.
“I did want to change the culture of Parliament House,” she said.
She conceded errors in the timeline but said “now I’ve got a much clearer picture of what happened”.
At the time the document was sent out to some media Higgins was passed out on valium, the court was told.
Queried over why Lehrmann’s name was included on the timeline, Higgins said it was an accidental oversight.
“It was meant to be redacted,” she said.
Earlier, she rejected Whybrow’s submission that the alleged rape in Parliament House never happened.
“You are incorrect,” Higgins said.
On Thursday, Higgins broke down under questioning over claimed lies and inconsistencies made in statements to the police, media, her Parliament House bosses and to a criminal court jury.
Lehrmann, in his evidence in the defamation trial, has admitted making lies or false statements regarding events at issue, giving different versions of events to police, journalists and in court.
He was charged over the alleged rape in August 2021, but his criminal trial in the ACT Supreme Court was abandoned due to juror misconduct.
Prosecutors did not seek a second trial on concerns for Higgins’ mental health.
Lehrmann has always maintained his innocence and there have been no findings against him.
The trial continues before Justice Michael Lee.
1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)
National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028