- Watch the defamation trial live stream here.
Brittany Higgins has again publicly recounted her claim of being raped by former colleague Bruce Lehrmann, describing herself as "completely obliterated" on the night.
"I was saying no and I was telling him stop and there was urgency to it but I couldn't scream like you see in the horror movies," she told the Federal Court on Wednesday.
"He didn't even acknowledge it."
Ms Higgins held back tears as she gave evidence in Mr Lehrmann's defamation proceedings against Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson, with about 17,000 people watching the livestream.
Mr Lehrmann is suing the television network and its journalist over a 2021 The Project story, which aired Ms Higgins' allegation a man raped her in a Parliament House ministerial office two years earlier.
While the story did not name him, Mr Lehrmann claims he was easily identified and the trial has heard multiple arguments over whether producers made reasonable attempts to contact him for a right of reply.
'I couldn't scream'
Ms Higgins is Ten's first witness, with 20 others, including former colleagues, security guards, police officers, family members, expert witnesses, and a rape crisis counsellor also expected to be called.
Mr Lehrmann sat on the furthest side of the room, up against a window, as Ms Higgins gave evidence.
She interchanged between calling him "Bruce" and "Mr Lehrmann".
While Ms Higgins admitted her memory of the night has faded in and out, she described waking up with Mr Lehrmann "having sex with me" as a "touch point".
"Bruce was on top of me," she said.
"I couldn't scream for some reason. It was just trapped in my throat."
The court heard messages Ms Higgins had sent to friend Ben Dillaway in the following days.
The woman gave evidence she finally began to verbalise what she said was an assault in those messages but was "still giving [Mr Lehrmann] the benefit of the doubt".
Ms Higgins said she was still considering if she had led the man on or if he hadn't heard her protestations.
"Then I was getting to the point where I was starting to process it," she said.
"Even if he didn't hear me. Even if he didn't hear me saying no or stop or whatever, how could he see me in a state, see me so drunk and after he, in his mind, have consensual sex with, how could he leave me on that couch unable to get up?
"Even in his mind, if I give him the benefit of every doubt, how could he leave me there like that?"
'Smiley face' email
As she had done during last year's criminal trial, the woman detailed her claim she awoke to pain in her leg and Mr Lehrmann pinning her on Senator Linda Reynolds' couch.
She once again gave evidence that she felt "like an afterthought" as she tried to put a stop to the alleged rape, like she had awoken "late to the party".
Later that Saturday, an email Mr Lehrmann sent the woman about getting her on an internal distribution list included a "smiley face".
"I really remember the smiley face," she said.
"I think because we'd never had sort of a friendly, social relationship and then suddenly after he rapes me there was this familiarity and a smiley face that I felt was undeserved."
Again holding back tears, the woman said it gave her "the heebies".
"It's so dumb but it really freaked me out. It still does," she said.
The court heard Ms Higgins was given an "ultimatum" after her and Mr Lehrmann's after hours visit about where to work. She decided to move to the Western Australia office during the election.
"See much of Senator Reynolds while in Western Australia?" Ten's barrister, Matthew Collins KC, asked.
Ms Higgins responded: "No, she actively avoided me and didn't even like being in a room with me."
The woman said the federal minister would never speak to her or go to events with her.
"I was really suicidal at the time, I was just really alone. I didn't know anyone there," the woman said, welling up with tears.
"All the people I was working with day in day out were all Bruce's former colleagues. I'd only known them three weeks and they knew the reason he was fired was in relation to me."
The court heard Ms Higgins felt triggered by reports of a staffer's alleged bullying behaviour in the office of federal minister Ken Wyatt.
"It just sort of reminds me of my situation, how it can be turned into a story and everyone is just basically empathising with the perpetrator of the harassment," she texted Mr Dillaway.
Everyone in Senator Reynolds' office was sympathetic to the accused person and "it was so horrendous that people would dare speak out about it", Ms Higgins said on Wednesday.
"It struck a nerve and it really hurt because I felt really abandoned. I just saw myself in that story."
Ms Higgins also felt "pissed" at the Liberal party.
"Bruce was just a bad person who did a bad thing," she said.
"I was really personally hurt by all these people that I loved or worked with, that in my time of need when something horrendous happened, all these good people did nothing.
"I can't explain how hurt I was that I was just abandoned like that."
In another message, the woman said she was "offered jack shit in terms of help" by her then-boss.
Mr Lehrmann has repeatedly told the court Ms Higgins was not overly intoxicated on the night of the alleged incident and he assessed her to be "perfectly fine, functioning".
Earlier on Wednesday, the woman described herself to have been "completely obliterated" and "messy" to the point of embarrassment and falling over.
"I was very, very inebriated," she said.
At Civic club 88mph before their after-hours visit to parliament, Ms Higgins described Mr Lehrmann as being "handsy" with her.
"I remember him sitting really close to me. I remember him having his arm around my shoulder," she said.
"I remember him touching me and I remember having a thought process of discomfort but not wanting to vocalise the discomfort."
Mr Lehrmann has previously denied all these claims.
Ms Higgins said she was "in the field of tolerance".
"I didn't push him away, I didn't snap at him ... I didn't want it but I was tolerating it," she said.
Starting 'right at the bottom'
When she began working with the new defence industry minister in March 2019, Ms Higgins said she started "right at the bottom" in an office with "a lot of egos competing" and where people were unsure about their positions.
"That whole office was a mess for a while. Pretty much the whole time, actually," Ms Higgins said.
She described doing "all the grunt work", including being "kind of treated like [Mr Lehrmann's] secretary".
"I felt like I was his secretary. He would ask me to do things and I would do them," Ms Higgins said.
Ms Higgins described two particular tasks, moving an office fridge and altering Mr Lehrmann's placement on an office phone list, as time consuming and "particularly annoying".
"I didn't think it was fair or right, which is why I remember them so pointedly," she said.
A rejected kiss
Ms Higgins also recounted a rejected kiss, which Mr Lehrmann has repeatedly denied ever happened, outside The Dock a week before the woman claims the man sexually assaulted her.
"Mr Lehrmann came up to me, he came into my space and he tried to kiss me on the lips," she told the court.
The pair had been dining and drinking with a number of office colleagues before each decided to leave at the same time.
READ MORE ABOUT THE TRIAL:
- Lehrmann out all night after allegations aired, contrary to affidavit
- Lehrmann accepts he lied in television interview
- Network Seven paying for year of Lehrmann's rent, court told
- 'Defriended': Lehrmann 'booted out of group chats after allegations aired
- Lehrmann explains multiple lies excusing late-night parliament visit
"I apologised, I was shocked. I said no and he seemed embarrassed. I just assumed I had led him on," Ms Higgins said.
Questioned on why she felt embarrassed, Ms Higgins said she didn't know and that she "shouldn't have".
The court heard the man's Uber pulled up and he left immediately, with the alleged incident never spoken about again.
"I let it slide and put it to the wayside," Ms Higgins said.
"I felt like we'd both been embarrassed enough, I didn't want to draw attention to it again."
Meeting Bruce Lehrmann
Ms Higgins was asked about her account of meeting Mr Lehrmann for the first time.
She joined several of Senator Reynolds' staffers on March 2, 2019, weeks before the alleged incident, at the Kingston Hotel.
The woman had reached out to the senator's media advisor for a job, with the pair acquainted because "there weren't very many young women on the conservative side of politics" at Parliament House.
"Mr Lehrmann took my phone in jest so I couldn't leave for a while," Ms Higgins said on Wednesday.
Despite the woman telling the court she understood this to be a joke, Mr Lehrmann has denied the claim.
The television network and Ms Wilkinson are, in part, relying on a truth defence and aiming to prove the allegation is "substantially true".
Dr Collins previously told the court there was a "legitimate public interest in the exposure of Ms Higgins' allegation".
Mr Lehrmann has always denied raping Ms Higgins when the pair worked as staffers for the then-defence industry minister, and no findings have been made against him.
The charge of engaging in sexual intercourse without consent levelled at him was eventually dropped, with prosecutors citing an unacceptable risk to Ms Higgins' life.
- Support is available for those who may be distressed. Phone Lifeline 13 11 14; Canberra Rape Crisis Centre 6247 2525.