Referrals to a Warrnambool sexual assault centre increased about a quarter in the past year as part of an upwards trend that also saw numbers double in the past six years.
Two rape allegations at the centre of Australian politics in the past three weeks have also contributed to more referrals to the South Western Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA).
CASA manager Mary Clapham said it was common for referrals to increase after Royal Commissions, media reports and public inquiries.
"It often follows a few months after an event," she said.
"We do have instances where people are contacting and directly talking about the impact of the Canberra situation at the moment. It certainly is occurring."
Ms Clapham said media reports could help people understand sexual assault is "a much more common experience" than might be thought and could encourage people to seek support through police, counselling services, and those they trust.
One in five women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15, Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows.
"There are a lot of pressures to remain silent and not tell, when reported in the media it can challenge that notion that people have a choice whether to tell or not," Ms Clapham said.
She said the number of referrals did not necessarily mean more sexual assaults were occurring in the community.
But she says conversations in the community need to be sensitive to how widespread sexual assault is.
"I would encourage people to remind themselves that sexual assault rates are very high and it affects not only the person who has been sexually assaulted but their family and friends," Ms Clapham said.
"It would be useful to remain sensitive to the person they are speaking with and gauge that person's response."
She said a victim-survivor needed to feel the time was right for them to come forward, often helped by trusting someone else would believe them and they could talk about their experience in a safe environment.
"Having support from others is a key component," Ms Clapham said.
Some Warrnambool students have pushed for a review of sex education in schools amid conversations about sexual consent has spread widely across the country.
Ms Clapham said while the impact of sexual assault had not changed, the community's understanding of it had.
"I do believe the general community's understanding of the continuum that sexual assault occurs on has changed.
"We know from statistics that for people who are sexually assaulted it is more likely to occur within a familiar environment for them such as within their homes by someone they know. The sexual assault can also still occur by someone unknown.
"There still remains a lot of societal conversation that is very focused on the victim. I would encourage people to wonder in their minds 'in the conversation I am having, is there some focus on the criminality of what's occurring and not just the victim?'"
- People needing help can contact the South Western Centre Against Sexual Assault on 5564 4144 during business hours and the Sexual Assault Crisis Line on 1800 806 292.
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