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Higgins: Why I decided to wear 'rape dress' to Liberal Party function

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Brittany Higgins has told court she wore the same dress from the night she was allegedly raped at Parliament House to a Liberal party function months later in an attempt to “reclaim” the favourite garment.

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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 Ms 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 Ms Higgins over the thought process of wearing the dress from the night of the alleged rape to a Liberal birthday party event of Ms Reynolds in Perth, in May 2019.

“It was my favourite dress, I used to wear it all the time,” Ms Higgins said, adding that wearing the dress to the function was an attempt to “reclaim” it and “shake off” its associations.

“I never could,” she said of the garment’s links to the alleged rape.

Quizzed over why she did not mention the garment’s associations in texts to the man she was seeing at the time, Ms Higgins said: “I would never message him stuff like that.”

“We didn’t have that type of relationship,” she said.

Ms Higgins denied voluntarily seeking out Ms Reynolds at the birthday function, telling the court she “just took the only available seat at the time”.

She also rejected Mr Whybrow’s submission that the alleged rape in Parliament House never took place.

“You are incorrect,” Ms Higgins said.

Ms Higgins broke down in the witness box on Thursday facing questioning over claimed lies and inconsistencies made in her 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 over concerns for Ms 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

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