A former Australian government staffer went on trial Tuesday for the alleged rape of a former co-worker in Parliament House.
Bruce Lehrmann has been charged with sexual intercourse without consent stemming from an accusation by Brittany Higgins that he raped her in the office of then-Defense Minster Linda Reynolds in March 2019.
The trial is expected to run between four and six weeks. Lehrmann, who has denied the charges, is facing 12 years in prison if convicted.
The case is among several sexual scandals that rocked the government of former Prime Minister Scott Morrison last year. Reynolds came under intense criticism when she called Higgins "a lying cow" after Higgins publicly came forward with her allegations. Reynolds said she was not referring to Higgins' allegations, but the description of how she was treated after coming forward. Reynolds later apologized for her comments.
Then-Attorney General Christian Potter came under fire after reports surfaced that he was accused of raping a 16-year-old girl in 1988 when he was 17 years old, an allegation Potter denied. Police did not bring any charges against Potter since his accuser has since died.
Both Reynolds and Potter were relieved of their posts in a cabinet reshuffle. The scandals prompted mass rallies across Australia with protesters demanding an end to sexual violence against women.
In addition to the scandals involving Potter and Reynolds, the center-right Liberal Party was hit with reports alleging several male staffers had filmed themselves performing sex acts in Parliament House, including on the desk of at least one female lawmaker, and shared the images on a special Facebook group chat page.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press.