The following contains details of sexual assault, which may be triggering for some readers.
In Lisa Wilkinson's four-decade career as a journalist, there have been a handful of issues that have been of particular importance to her. Child protection. Women's health. Gender-based violence.
Her February interview with Brittany Higgins, for example, platformed the former Liberal staffer's damning allegations that she was raped by a colleague inside Parliament House in 2019 — a watershed moment for the #metoo movement in Australia.
But as Wilkinson shares in her forthcoming autobiography, It Wasn't Meant to Be Like This, her connection to such issues isn't purely about journalistic inquiry; it comes from a deeply personal place.
When she was 15, Lisa Wilkinson was sexually assaulted by a friend's father.
Speaking to Mamamia's No Filter podcast, The Project host said that she was violated twice by this man. The first time was in public. The second, more serious offence, occurred in his home.
Watch: Lisa Wilkinson like you've never heard her before.
Wilkinson had been invited there by her friend and was meant to be staying the night. But feeling uncomfortable in the presence of the girl's father, she called her own to collect her. Filling in time before his 6pm arrival, she went into the laundry. Her friend's dog had recently had puppies, and Wilkinson wanted to look at them.
There, the perpetrator cornered and assaulted her.
"I remember freezing, and I remember thinking, 'What have I done? How, how is it that he thinks this is okay? This is my friend's father. My friend's mother is just in there. But for some reason he thinks this is okay?'" Wilkinson said.
"I don't know where my courage comes from, sometimes. But when I realised what was going on, I just got out of there."
Wilkinson's father knocked on the front door of the home a short time later. When she raced toward it, the perpetrator followed, as if to ensure she kept quiet.
"I thought, 'If I tell Dad, what happens now? If I tell my friend, what happens now? What does the other side of telling this secret look like?' And all of it looked painful. It was just easier to stand there," she said.