Timeline: Rape, sex scandals rocking Australian Parliament

Warning: This article deals with allegations of sexual abuse. Read on the Herald Sun.

Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins, pictured with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who made shocking claims she was raped while in the defence minister’s office in Parliament House. Picture: ABC News

Since Brittany Higgins first claimed she was raped in Parliament House the government has been rocked by scandal after scandal. Here’s everything you need to know.

Coalition media adviser Brittany Higgins first came forward with claims she was raped in Parliament House by a colleague in a news.com.au story in mid-February.

Since then, the government has been rocked by scandal after scandal, including bombshell allegations Attorney-General Christian Porter raped a woman in 1988.

Here’s everything you need to know about the sex and rape scandals surrounding Parliament House in the past two months.

TIMELINE OF EVENTS

FEBRUARY 15: Coalition staffer Brittany Higgins says she was raped in Parliament House. The alleged rape occurred inside the office of Defence Minister Linda Reynolds about 2am on March 23, 2019, when Ms Higgins was aged 24. Her allegation to news.com.au is that after a night of drinking with colleagues, she got into a taxi with a male staffer while heavily intoxicated thinking she was going home. Instead he took her to Parliament House. She says she fell asleep on the couch in Ms Reynolds’ office and woke up with the man raping her.

She says she was crying and begging him to stop during the rape, and that she was left with bruises. She says he left her undressed on the couch to be discovered by security. She says she disclosed what happened to her chief of staff within the coalition at the time. After this, she says she was called to have a meeting about it in the same room that the rape occurred. She did not go to police at the time because she feared it could affect her job but has since made a formal complaint.

FEBRUARY 18: The Prime Minister’s office is accused by media figures of “backgrounding” journalists — making claims and comments without putting a name to it — against Ms Higgins’ partner after the rape story breaks on news.com.au. The accusation is denied by the government.

FEBRUARY 26The ABC reports an unnamed senior cabinet minister has been accused of rape. It is revealed Prime Minister Scott Morrison and others were sent a letter detailing the historical allegation, with a thorough statement made by the woman, who took her own life in June aged 49. She claimed she was raped by the man when she was 16.

MARCH 3: Attorney-General Christian Porter reveals he is the cabinet minister accused of rape in a Perth press conference. He denies raping the woman in 1988 when he was 17 during a debating competition at Sydney University. “The things that have been claimed to happen did not happen,” he says. He goes on take stress leave, due to return March 31.

MARCH 3: The Australian reports that Defence Minister Linda Reynolds – in whose office the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins occurred — called Ms Higgins a “lying cow” to her staff after the original story came out in February. Ms Higgins sues her former boss for defamation in response, resulting in a confidential settlement which Ms Higgins says she is donating to organisations that help victims of sexual assault. Ms Reynolds, who was on already on medical leave, announces she will extend it.

MARCH 15: Tens of thousands of protesters take to the streets across Australia in March 4 Justice rallies in response to the shocking allegations coming out of parliament. In Canberra, Brittany Higgins delivers a powerful and emotional address. In Hobart, Grace Tame tells the crowd that evil thrives in silence and it’s time for “making noise”. In Perth, Christian Porter’s ex-wife Lucy Gunn is spotted marching with the crowd.

MARCH 15:Scott Morrison is criticised for his response to the marches, saying it was a triumph of democracy that protesters were not shot in Australia like they are in some countries overseas. “This is a vibrant liberal democracy,” he said. “Not far from here, such marches – even now – are being met with bullets but not here in this country. This is a triumph of democracy when we see these things take place.” He declines to attend the Canberra march but offers to meet with organisers in private, which is also declined.

MARCH 15: News.com.au reveals posts from a private Facebook group for women who work for the Labor Party, with harrowing allegations including senior male political figures pressuring women for sex and having sex with them when they were too drunk to consent, kissing them without consent, insulting them in crude and misogynistic language, and making comments on their looks.

MARCH 15:Christian Porter announces he is suing the ABC and journalist Louise Milligan claiming defamation over the story revealing an unnamed senior cabinet minister had been accused of rape.

MARCH 22: It is revealed a parliamentary probe into who in Scott Morrison’s office knew about the Brittany Higgins rape allegation was suspended on March 9. The man leading the probe, Phil Gaetjens, says it was suspended to ensure a police investigation was not interfered with.

MARCH 22: Photos and videosshowing a Coalition staffer masturbating on the desk of an unnamed female MP in Parliament House are revealed on Channel 10. An anonymous insider shares allegations that male staffers routinely send photos and videos taken within Parliament House of each other of a sexual nature. One photo is of a man exposing himself with a copy of the Parliament House rule book behind him. The source also claims the prayer room within Parliament House is routinely used for sex by staffers and MPs, and that sex workers are frequently brought into the building by those who work there. The Prime Minister says the staff member at the centre of the masturbating incident has been fired.

MARCH 22: Five other women by now have made allegations about the man accused of raping Brittany Higgins, including his former housemate Kriti Gupta who told the ABC she felt unsafe living with him because of his demands for sex. An anonymous Liberal staffer previously alleged to the Australian the man raped her at a hotel, another said he assaulted her while she was a virgin, another also said he sexually assaulted her, and another claimed he cornered her in a bar and started touching her.

MARCH 23Scott Morrison breaks down in tears discussing the “shameful” behaviour aired in the Channel 10 report, saying he was “shocked” and “disgusted”. “I was completely stunned, as I have been on more than one occasion over the course of this last month”. The Prime Minister said it had been a “traumatic month”, beginning with the Brittany Higgins allegations. “Women have been putting up with this crap all their lives,” he said.

MARCH 24: Liberal senator Eric Abetz is accused of making “slut-shaming” comments about Brittany Higgins. Tasmanian state MP Sue Hickey says in parliament that Mr Abetz said of Higgins “anybody so disgustingly drunk who would sleep with anybody could have slept with one of our spies and put the security of the nation at risk”. She also claims Mr Abetz said of the Christian Porter allegation: “Not to worry, the woman is dead and the law will protect him.” Mr Abetz categorically denies making the comments.

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