Australian PM apologises, promises probe after allegation of rape in parliament

Scott Morrison

Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins says she was only made aware about some of the details of the night she was allegedly raped in Parliament House after going public with her story.

The notion that Scott Morrison can not act on, let alone sympathise with, the assault of a woman without imagining that the woman in question is his wife or daughter is an ideology inherent to benevolent misogyny - a type of misogyny in which men refuse to see women as their fellow human beings unless they're women they personally care for.

The staffer - who hasn't been charged or investigated by police - reportedly left his home on Sydney's north shore on Wednesday evening to seek psychiatric care.

Parliament House needed an independent reporting mechanism for staff so that they could confidently and safely make complaints, Higgins said.

It comes after Scott Morrison was also criticised for his response to the incident after he told reporters a conversation with his wife Jenny, and imagining the victim as one of his daughters was what made him realise the impacts of the alleged crime.

Brittany Higgins, a former adviser to two Liberal cabinet ministers, aired claims on Monday.

She said she was violated in the office of Defence Minister Linda Reynolds in the early hours of March 23, 2019, days before Morrison called the elections on April 10.

As the allegations garnered outrage, Morrison apologized to Higgins, specifically for the meeting that took place in Reynolds's office.

She told "The Project" she woke up to find her colleague on top of her "mid-rape", and when she repeatedly asked him to stop, he didn't.

After informing her employer, Ms Higgins felt Ms Reynolds' office tried to "manage" the situation, downplaying her trauma.

"I deeply, deeply regret conducting the meeting in my office where the alleged incident occurred", Reynolds said.

She said she felt "dismissed" following the alleged incident and didn't take a complaint further with police because she was anxious it would impact her career.

Senator Reynolds told parliament on Monday she did not know the alleged incident happened inside her ministerial office at the time of the meeting.

"There was a loop happening in my mind of this trauma that I'd just sort of come to terms with and I thought it was unfathomable that they would put me in such a place again", she said.

Mr Morrison said he has written to Finance Minister Simon Birmingham to request he coordinate the cross-parliamentary cooperation.

What was the PM's response?

Ms Higgins also took aim at Prime Minister Scott Morrison and singled out senior parliamentary staffers in her statement.

"In particular, I have asked that this process consider the adequacy, effectiveness, independence and awareness of current supports that are available to Parliamentarians and their staff".

The prime minister also announced a review into the professional culture of parliament, saying problems crossed over party lines.

"At the end of the day, I want to make sure that any young woman working in this place is as safe as possible".

On Monday, Mr Morrison acknowledged Ms Higgins' allegations in parliament but did not commit to further action.

"She said to me: 'You have to think about this as a father first. What would you want to happen if it were our girls?" he said.

His comments have drawn much criticism online from women who suggested that Mr Morrison should not need to do that.

Ms Higgins, women in parliament, and the marginalised peoples of this country deserve better than a condescending PM who can not muster empathy for a single woman without his wife advising him to imagine this woman is his daughter.

Australian politics has long faced accusations of being a hostile environment for women.

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