The man who allegedly raped Brittany Higgins, a government employee, in Australia’s Parliament building has been charged with one count of sexual assault.
Higgins, 26, came forward in February, sharing her account of how she went out to drinks with a coworker in March 2019, after which time he assaulted her in the office of a former defense industry minister. Higgins went to the police after the alleged attack occurred, but dropped the case because she feared losing her job. At the time, she had also been questioned by her boss in the same room where she said the man assaulted her.
“Most cases of this nature don’t end up in a conviction,” Higgins told the New York Times earlier this year. “I’m speaking my truth, and I know it’s the right thing to do.”
According to the outlet, police notified the man on Friday that he was required to appear in court next month for his arraignment. For the one charge of sexual assault, he could face up to 12 years in prison.
Though the man will only have to answer for Higgins’s allegations in court—so far—hers are not the only ones he faces. After Higgins spoke out against the former government employee, so did three other women, who recounted similar experiences. One of them alleged that the man bought her several shots one evening, before bringing her back to his hotel room. The woman awoke half-dressed, with the man lying on top of her.
Together, their stories led to a reckoning within Australian Parliament, which also saw a whistleblower expose members of parliament and government aides for things like masturbating on a woman lawmaker’s desk. The whistleblower also revealed the existence of a group of male government staffers who allegedly shared explicit videos and images of sex acts among themselves for years.
The Times reports that the government has “begun numerous inquiries into parliamentary workplace culture,” but so far it seems that the only notable result has been the government instituting a new policy requiring one-hour in-person sexual harassment prevention trainings. (“...Although there will be few consequences for those who do not attend, the Times notes.)
Higgins may no longer fear losing her job as she did two years ago—she has since left her job—but her belief that cases like hers don’t end in conviction and may not lead to any consequences for anyone at all still seems frustratingly well-founded.