News Second woman accuses ex-Liberal staffer of rape

Second woman accuses ex-Liberal staffer of rape

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A second woman has come forward alleging she was raped by the same man accused of sexually assaulting former Liberals staffer Brittany Higgins in 2019.

The Weekend Australian is reporting the woman, also a former Liberal party staffer, has come forward in solidarity with Ms Higgins.

“If this had been properly dealt with by the government in 2019 this would not have happened to me,” she told the newspaper, on the condition of anonymity.

“I am telling my story because I want to support Brittany (Higgins) and I want to help shine a light on this awful culture.”

Ms Higgins revealed her story last week, alleging she had been raped by a fellow staffer in the office of then-defence industry minister Linda Reynolds.

The man was sacked in the days after the incident, and Ms Higgins argued she felt her complaint against him was jeopardising her career in politics.

Yesterday, she announced she had “re-engaged” with the Australian Federal Police (AFP), pressing ahead with a formal complaint and asking them to undertake a “comprehensive” investigation to ensure her alleged perpetrator faced the “the full force of the law.”

The second woman, who has not been identified, has told the newspaper she is also a former Liberals staffer.

She alleges the man raped her last year, after the pair had dinner and drinks.

She has told the newspaper she has come forward to help Ms Higgins shine a light on the culture in federal Parliament, and suggested her assault may never have happened if Ms Higgins had been properly supported in 2019.

Ms Higgins’s rape allegations have rocked the nation’s capital, and posed serious questions about whether the incident was covered up.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not comment directly on that assertion on Saturday, but welcomed the AFP investigation into Ms Higgins’s complaint.

“We at all times, the ministers who had knowledge of this matter and those who were in a senior position, the staff that had knowledge of those matters in those offices, at all times sought to have this matter fully investigated by the police,” Mr Morrison said on Saturday.

“Now, that is not something the government can force; we cannot do that.”

He said he was upset to read the reports about the second woman.

Mr  Morrison has been hit with repeated questions about what his office knew of Ms Higgins’s complaint, and whether his staff failed to pass on details they learned of the alleged rape.

Mr Morrison has apologised for the way the matter was handled.

There are now four investigations underway into the incident, in addition to the AFP inquiry, including into which staffers in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had knowledge of the assault allegation.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese spoke about the second allegation in a press conference on Saturday morning.

“We now know that another woman has come forward to say that she was a victim of sexual assault of the same person who is alleged to be the perpetrator of a sexual assault against Brittany Higgins,” Mr Albanese said.

“This is a quite shocking revelation. Ms Higgins deserves answers.”

Former prime minister Julia Gillard has offered her support to Ms Higgins, saying she was “horrified both by the incident, and the aftermath”.

“I hugely admire Brittany Higgins’s courage in coming forward with her account of her rape in Parliament House,” Ms Gillard said in a statement.

“Ms Higgins’s bravery should lead to genuine change in the workplace culture within Parliament at all levels, and I support calls for an independent and comprehensive review.”

Ms Gillard offered the support of the Australian National University’s (ANU) Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, which she chairs, in developing codes of conduct for Parliament.

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-with agencies