Scandals involving two separate sexual assault allegations that have rocked Australia’s ruling party intensified Monday with mass protests across the nation demanding an end to sexual violence against women.
Thousands of women marched on Parliament House in the capital Canberra in the March 4 Justice carrying signs emblazoned with various slogans demanding accountability, many of them carrying the hashtag #EnoughisEnough. Similar rallies also took place in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
The highlight of the rally in Canberra was a surprise appearance by Brittany Higgins, a former staff member of Defense Minister Linda Reynolds who has alleged being raped by a senior staffer in Parliament House in 2019. Higgins told the crowd that her superiors, whom she once considered her “idols,” treated her differently after she reported the rape incident. “I wasn’t a person who had just gone through a life changing traumatic event, I was a political problem,” she said.
Reynolds has come under fire for calling Higgins “a lying cow,” which the minister said was not about Higgins’ allegations of the assault, but the young woman’s description of how she was treated after coming forward. Reynolds later expressed remorse for the comments she made in February. “Given that the comment was made public, which I never intended,” she said in a statement on March 12. “I also want to retract it and unreservedly apologize to Brittany Higgins and acknowledge the hurt and distress it caused to her.”
The demonstrators demanded Prime Minister Scott Morrison address the rally, but he declined. Rally organizers refused the prime minister’s invitation to meet privately with a delegation of protesters.
Attorney-General Christian Porter has also come under fire over allegations that he raped a 16-year-old girl in 1988 when he was 17. Porter has denied the allegations, and his attorneys announced Monday they have filed a defamation lawsuit against the Australian Broadcasting Corporation over a news article about the allegations.