While our country recovers from the Covid lockdown years, across Australia there are thousands of families who look back to 2021 as the start of a very different nightmare – the year their sons were accused of sexual assault. In the past few weeks, I have spoken to three mothers whose sons faced rape accusations that year. Luckily in all three cases, the false allegations didn’t end up with the young men in jail. In one case the charges ended up being dropped, the other two guys were found not guilty by juries.
For one family it took nearly two years of hell to have the young woman’s lies exposed in court. Their barrister asked the accuser in court to confirm her allegation that she’d been raped, beaten black and blue, and left unconscious. “Maybe,” the girl replied. The barrister pressed the point. “No, but I could have been,” suggested the girl.
After a four-week trial costing the family over $300,000, the jury took less than an hour to acquit the young man and throw the case out.
This is the legacy of Brittany Higgins – the flood of Higgins copycat cases working their way through our justice system, demanding massive police and judicial resources often for dubious cases which should never have ended up in court. There was a huge wave of women who came forward in early 2021 claiming to be victims of sexual assault. The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics, which produces the most detailed statistics, reported that in March 2021 NSW police recorded the highest ever spike in sexual assaults, an astonishing 59% increase from the monthly average in the previous year.
That was just over a month after Brittany Higgins appeared on national television with Lisa Wilkinson who celebrated her bravery in accusing Bruce Lehrmann of rape. It was a few weeks after Higgins spoke in front of applauding crowds at the Women’s March 4 Justice and Chanel Cantos started her Instagram petition gathering anonymous claims of sexual assault from Australian schoolgirls.
Within a few months the managers of the Brisbane-based 1800 RESPECT sexual assault phone line were thrilled at the huge national response their hotline was receiving: “It’s like the floodgates have been opened. Things are changing and it feels positive,” said Melonie Sheehan, reporting over 20,000 calls in February, and 5000 more calls in the first week of March.
Two years later the chickens are coming home to roost. All those eager “survivors” are seeing their cases finally winding their way through the courts, joined by a steady stream of other young women keen to have their Higgins moment.
No doubt these include many genuine cases where victims deserve justice. Given how badly rape victims were treated in the past, many of the changes to our justice system encouraging these women to come forward are to be applauded. Anyone who doubts the need for continued vigilance about the sexual exploitation of women should watch Mark Steyn’s recent expose of the shameful history of gang-rape of English girls by Pakistani gangs. Women do remain at risk, particularly in certain communities.
Yet, what we rarely hear about are women exploiting the “believe women” mantra now prevailing in our justice system to manufacture stories to destroy men. Their reasons are many, including revenge sex against lovers who have let them down, or a cover up for cringe moments where they get caught out having sex with the wrong man.
Women have learnt from the Brittany Higgins case which proved an alleged rape survivor can get away with extraordinary behaviour – and indeed, be rewarded with millions of taxpayers’ dollars for her efforts. Janet Albrechtsen in The Weekend Australian last week revealed Bruce Lehrmann’s lawyer, Steven Whybrow SC had written to Federal Police just before the case fell apart, asking for an investigation into Higgins’ conduct during the trial, including allegations she falsified and destroyed evidence, fabricated a photo of a bruise on her leg and publicly called into question the evidence of a witness while the trial was still under way.