Media Analysis

Court finds Lehrmann raped Higgins, MSM: Sure, but did she object enough?

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

The Federal Court finding that Bruce Lehrmann raped Brittany Higgins, though a huge step forward, will not reverse years of victim bashing, misogyny and rampant rape culture, writes managing editor Michelle Pini.

* CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses rape

“Bruce Lehrmann raped Brittany Higgins." This was the Federal Court outcome of Lehrmann’s defamation case against Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson, described by Justice Lee as an "omnishambles".

Though the Lehrmann defamation case has concluded and the verdict – that Bruce Lehrmann raped Brittany Higgins, on the balance of probabilities – may provide vindication for Higgins and sexual assault victims everywhere, unfortunately, the omnishambles is far from neatly tidied up.

Following the outcome, Murdoch outlets published a few headlines alongside images of Lehrmann leaving the Federal Court acknowledging the rape finding in their usual subtle language:

‘Rapist and a loser’  ~ Herald Sun

‘Loser and a rapist’  ~ Courier Mail

Homeless, jobless and a rapist…’ ~ Daily Mail

‘Rapist leaves court’ ~

But these weasly words employed by the media cartel are, in reality, only a temporary reprieve from their underlying agenda of misogyny, victim bashing and rape culture.

Indeed, only two days later, and the usual blatant fueling of hatred towards women and victims of sexual assault has already begun with:

'Lehrmann judgement should end Wilkinson’s career' ~ Herald Sun 

'Ten’s hollow victory no vindication of shambolic trial by media' ~ The Australian 

And even:

‘Former Supreme Court judges say Brittany Higgins' $2.4 million government compensation payment should be investigated after revelations she made "false" statements’ ~Sky News

As Dr Victoria Fielding wrote on IA, 

'Everyone involved in the making of the Lehrmann 'Spotlight' episodes has no right to call themselves journalists. They have no right to claim they did anything but assist an alleged rapist to smear Higgins, the woman whose rape allegation was deemed credible enough by A.C.T. prosecutors to proceed with a trial.'

Further, that any organisation that calls itself a media outlet could watch Justice Lee's live-streamed finding, or read his complete, meticulous and detailed 324-page ruling and conclude that Brittany Higgins – the victim in this scenario, the woman who was raped – should now be investigated because some of her testimony was inaccurate, beggars belief.

This is, of course, in the same month it was revealed that Channel Seven's Sunlight program wooed former Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann with ‘illicit drugs and prostitutes’  to secure an exclusive interview and obtain thousands of Ms Higgins' private text messages. 

It’s in the same week in which Seven – in an all-around omnishambles of a week for Stokes – wrongly identified an innocent person as the Westfield Bondi Junction killer.

And it’s in the same week News Corp’s Janet Albrechtsen, the “journalist” who cosied up to the head of the inquiry into Lehrmann’s criminal rape trial, Walter Sofranoff, making it a complete farce, decided to share her thoughts on media ethics.

You really couldn’t make this shit up. And yet, they continue to do so.

Lehrmann is charged with two other, unrelated counts of sexual assault in Toowoomba. He will discover next week whether he will also have to pay costs related to the defamation proceedings. It is yet to be determined whether the original criminal trial in which he was charged with raping Higgins – declared a mistrial due to juror misconduct – will be reopened. 

Reports have already surfaced (miraculously leaked to the Murdoch media, of course) painting a pitiful picture of Lehrmann as a broken man, who 'sought refuge in a regional police station' — though it is unclear why he requires police protection when victims of rape are not usually afforded this.

So, why did Channel Seven attach itself to an accused rapist and then attempt to run public relations for him, turning him into a Right-wing poster boy?

Why did The Australian's Janet Albrechtsen try to divert the course of justice?

And why is Sky News persisting on its merry misogynistic way?

Because this is how rape culture works. Only by vilifying the victim and elevating the perpetrator to the level of hero, can sexual violence be normalised. Only by directing hatred towards victims for being too drunk or wearing revealing clothing and therefore "asking for it", or for daring to call out their attackers, can the merry little game, in which violence against women is, by and large, ignored, continue.

This finding by Justice Lee that Bruce Lehrmann raped Brittany Higgins, though a huge step forward, will not reverse the years of victim bashing, misogyny and rampant rape culture, which outlets like Sky News, The Australian and Channel Seven cultivate and continue to defend as though their lives/livelihoods were dependent on it.

Unfortunately, the lives of countless women, assaulted, raped, bashed and murdered each week, do depend on us finding a way to end this toxicity.

If you would like to speak to someone about sexual violence, please call the 1800 Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat online, or Lifeline on 13 11 14. In an emergency, please call 000. 


This is not the whole story! Subscribe today to read the complete article and access all our work.

You can follow managing editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter/X @independentaus and Facebook HERE.

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