Higgins feared being ‘passenger’ in rape story: fiance
Miklos Bolza |
Brittany Higgins needed to be in control and not act as a “passenger” after previously being robbed of her consent, her fiance told a TV journalist as they planned to air her rape claims.
Emails between David Sharaz and Ten presenter Lisa Wilkinson lay bare the discussions that led up to an interview with Ms Higgins that ran on The Project in February 2021.
Ms Higgins alleged she was sexually assaulted by former Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann while lying drunk in the office of their then-boss, Senator Linda Reynolds, in the early hours of March 2019.
About a month before The Project broadcast aired, Mr Sharaz urged caution around how Ten interacted with his fiancee to ensure she had complete control over what happened.
Ms Higgins’ consent had already been taken from her in the alleged Parliament House assault, he said to Wilkinson.
“In the effort of being a good partner to a woman I love and care about, I’ve scared her because this is taking off very quickly,” Mr Sharaz wrote.
“Naively, I didn’t even think about the fact that she will feel like a passenger in something.”
“The consent was taken in the initial assault, I need her to feel control in this.”
Wilkinson responded, agreeing Ms Higgins had to be comfortable and saying any media coverage by Ten would proceed at her own pace.
“This is Brittany’s story, no one else’s, and it is crucial that she remains the driver,” Wilkinson wrote.
“Too many others have been in control of all that’s happened to her at this point. She is wise to want to change that.”
In an email three days after Ms Higgins was interviewed by Wilkinson, producer Angus Llewellyn wrote to Ten staff that the alleged rape survivor was “quite fragile”.
He asked The Project team to keep everyone in the loop, saying Ms Higgins would need plenty of notice and would likely wish to fly interstate to be with family before anything went to press.
The documents were publicly revealed on Friday in a Federal Court defamation case brought against Ten and Wilkinson by Lehrmann.
The 28-year-old has consistently denied that he raped Ms Higgins, saying no sexual contact occurred between them.
He is suing Ten and Wilkinson for substantial damages over The Project report, saying it was defamatory and ruined his reputation despite not naming him specifically.
His defamation trial ran for a month in December and will come back before the court on February 13.
Lehrmann’s criminal trial in the ACT Supreme Court on a charge of raping Ms Higgins was derailed by juror misconduct in October 2022.
He also faces two charges of raping another woman in Toowoomba in October 2021 and remains before the Queensland courts.
He has not entered a plea but lawyers have indicated he denies that allegation.
1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)
National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028AAP