This coming week we celebrate International Women’s Day, with a theme of Choose to Challenge. When I contemplated that theme I thought of you. I thought of your enormous courage as a young woman to tell your story. I thought of the hope and inspiration you have given to other young women. You also give hope to us older women as well. We watch you with pride, and a certain sadness. There are many of us who never had your courage. We have lived with these stories of sexual abuse, this intense shame that we have buried in our deepest darkest places. Those stories have sticky fingers that pull us back. They tell us that we are worthless. That we are unlovable. They tell us that somehow we were complicit. That we deserved it.
We watched you. We watched you break the silence. We heard the truth shatter like a glass hitting the tiles. A small girl telling the truth in the land of suits and lies. Wow! It’s just unbelievable how one small voice can blow the place apart. That’s what truth does. It changes things. You, and your enormous courage are changing things. You are holding them to account. You are telling other girls that this is not okay. That this needs calling out. That this shouldn’t have happened.
You have been heard. We, the people, heard you tell your story and we were outraged. We heard the story of your rape by a colleague; and then how you were failed by those around you, those who should have supported you. When I read that they sent someone in the next day to clean the couch in the Minister’s office that you were raped on, I felt such rage. The Ministry showed duty of care for their furniture. They did not show duty of care to you. You cannot erase what happened to you by cleaning a couch. The same couch where you were sat, once again, to tell your story to the minister. This is their shame, not yours. You can clean a couch, but you cannot clean this story. This story is a stain on our government – on our Parliament.
I feel that we, the women of this country, owe you massive thanks. You must have known that this story was going to make you the centre of a story where your name is on our lips. We have seen you. While the alleged perpetrator enjoys a certain anonymity, it is your face that has been in the media, in newspapers, on TV, on my social media feed. You – a young woman the same age as one of my own daughters. I am so sorry that we haven’t changed this. We older feminists and agitators wanted a better world for women your age, a world where every woman can expect to be safe in her workplace.
In speaking out you have endured the trauma of victim blaming. The trauma of your Prime Minister only finding empathy when he imagined if it had happened to his daughters. You have been judged for being drunk. They say being drunk was consent. The same men that rape you when you’re drunk made the law that no one can give consent when drunk. It’s statutory rape.
It’s not just the rapist you have called out. You have called out the establishment. You have called out patriarchy. Your courage has given others courage. Their voices are gathering around yours. They are telling their stories. The corridors of white male privilege are crumbling.
So, thank you, Brittany Higgins.
As a 53 year old feminist with four daughters I thank you for your courage. You are changing things. You chose to challenge the silence and the establishment, and we, the women of this country, are behind you. We understand the stains that can’t be erased. And we won’t be silent.