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Brittany Higgins felt ‘trapped’ during alleged rape in Australian parliament – court

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An Australian former political staffer said she felt “trapped” and “not human” during an alleged rape inside Parliament House in Canberra.

Prosecutors say Bruce Lehrmann sexually assaulted Brittany Higgins in March 2019 while she was drunk and asleep in the office of a government minister.

Mr Lehrmann, 27, has pleaded not guilty and denies the pair had sex at all.

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The trial in a Canberra court began this week and is expected to call on several high-profile witnesses.

Speaking in court for the first time, Ms Higgins said she had known Mr Lehrmann for less than a month before the alleged assault on 23 March, and that in the weeks before, he had tried to kiss her after a work event.

Earlier, in a recorded police interview played to the jury, Ms Higgins said she and Mr Lehrmann had agreed to share a ride home after a night out with colleagues but stopped at Parliament House.

Ms Higgins said she was “the most drunk I have been in my life” and had passed out on a couch.

She told police she woke to find Mr Lehrmann having sex with her. Crying, she told him “stop” and “no”.

“I wasn’t screaming but there was obviously an urgency to it,” she said in the 2021 interview. “He just kept going.”

When it was over, Mr Lehrmann quickly left the office, Ms Higgins said. “[There] was a strange moment of eye contact… I didn’t say anything to him.”

After waking up again hours later, with her dress bunched around her waist, Ms Higgins told police she went home and cried all weekend.

The following week, she told a senior staff member she had been assaulted.

“It didn’t feel real,” she said in the police tape. “[But] the moment I vocalised it, it hit me.”

In a separate police interview, Ms Higgins said she was nervous about telling her superiors about what had happened because she feared losing her job and felt “disposable”.

“The disparity between me and him was huge,” she said.

Jurors earlier heard that Ms Higgins initially reported the incident to police in April 2019, but withdrew her complaint because she feared it would interfere with her job during an election campaign.

Almost two years later, in February 2021, she asked police to reopen the case after conducting interviews with two journalists.

Prosecutors have told the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court they will argue that Ms Higgins was so intoxicated she would have been unable to consent to sex.

But Mr Lehrmann’s barrister has told jurors the case was about the “reliability” and “credibility” of Ms Higgins, saying there were “holes” in her account. His client denied the two ever had sex, he said, adding the Australian public had “been sold a pup with this story”.

The trial is expected to run for up to six weeks.

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