A former government aide allegedly raped inside Australia’s federal parliament was anguished about telling her family and “stressed” she might be pregnant, a court heard Wednesday.
Brittany Higgins alleged she was raped by former political aide Bruce Lehrmann, 27, on a couch inside a minister’s office in the early hours of March 23, 2019. Lehrmann denies the charge.
The allegations first came to light through media reports in early 2021 and — on the back of the global #MeToo movement — sparked national protests and multiple government investigations.
The Supreme Court in Australia’s capital Canberra was played tapes Wednesday of two separate police interviews conducted with Higgins in the wake of the allegations.
“It was never something that I wanted to voluntarily share with people,” Higgins said in a police interview conducted in February 2021.
“I find it much easier to tell strangers than I do to tell family, it’s really hard.”
Higgins, who was a political staffer at the time, told police in a second interview — conducted in May 2021 — that she feared she might be pregnant.
“I remember buying a pregnancy test in Perth. There was a convenience store not far from my hotel,” she told police.
“I was quite slow on the uptake of processing everything. I was late and I was stressed.”
Higgins burst into tears at one point during the second police interview.
She is expected to testify to the court later Wednesday.
Lehrmann, who had been a political aide in Australia’s former centre-right government, has pleaded not guilty to one charge of sexual intercourse without consent.
The pair travelled to Parliament House together after a night of drinking in Canberra’s bars and nightclubs, the court heard Wednesday.
Higgins said she was drunk and struggling to walk, before going with Lehrmann into the office of former government minister Linda Reynolds, where the assault is alleged to have taken place.
“As the night went on he made his way more into my space. I remember being more cognisant of that,” Higgins told police.
The trial made front-page news after opening on Tuesday, when Lehrmann’s lawyers rejected the charge and reportedly said he had faced “trial by media”.