Australian defense minister hospitalized ‘as precaution’ amid scandal over alleged rape of young staffer

Australian Defense Minister Linda Reynolds has unexpectedly taken sick leave just as she was about to answer questions about a young staffer’s claims that she was raped by a male colleague inside the minister’s office. 

According to a statement on the Department of Defense’s website, Reynolds has been admitted to a Canberra hospital “as a precautionary measure” on the advice of her cardiologist, relating to a pre-existing condition. 

The statement did not specify how long Reynolds will be staying in hospital. It said Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke to her and wished her a quick recovery. According to media reports, he also spoke to her cardiologist. 

Reynolds, who has been criticized over her handling of rape allegations, was set to deliver a much-anticipated speech at the National Press Club and answer questions from reporters about the disturbing claims made by her former staffer against a male colleague.

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Brittany Higgins claims she was assaulted by a male colleague in 2019, when she was a media adviser to the government. She said that, after a night out drinking with co-workers, a man offered to take a cab with her. But instead of dropping Higgins at home, he took the young woman to the Parliament House in Canberra, where both chambers of Australia’s parliament and the prime minister’s office are located. 

Higgins said she was raped inside Reynolds’s office. The woman was discovered by a security guard as she was lying on a couch half-naked after the man had left. 

The former staffer said the incident was initially treated as a security breach. She reported the alleged rape to superiors and police, but initially chose not to make a formal complaint, because she wanted to protect her “dream job” and the ruling Liberal Party on the eve of an election. 

“It was just about my job. If it had happened on a street corner away from parliament there was no doubt in my mind,” Higgins told news.com.au website.  

Nevertheless, Higgins now says she felt abandoned and neglected by her boss Reynolds and other superiors who did not treat her case with necessary urgency. 

“She said, ‘If you choose to go to the police we will support you in that process, but we just need to know ahead of time. We need to know now,’” the former staffer said of her conversations with Reynolds. She added that she felt as if she was a “sudden problem” for Reynolds.

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“I felt like they were ticking a box. That they had to have this conversation with me in order to say on the record ‘We told her she could go to the police.’’’

Higgins’s alleged rapist resigned shortly after the incident. He has not been publicly identified by the media. Higgins stopped working for the government in January 2021. She made a formal complaint to police about the 2019 incident on Wednesday. 

Three more women have since told the media that they were assaulted by the same man who allegedly raped Higgins. 

After the allegations became public, the government acknowledged that in 2019 Higgins was brought for a meeting in the same room where she had claimed to have been assaulted. 

“Given the seriousness of the incident, the meeting should have been conducted elsewhere,” a spokesperson said in a statement, insisting that Higgins would have had full support from Minister Reynolds had she chosen to file a complaint at the time.

PM Morrison said he was “sickened” by the allegations and that parliament should be “setting the standard” for workplace culture in the country. Several inquiries into standards in parliament have since been launched.

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Source:RT World News

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