DESPITE figures showing sex crime rose by more than a third in Monash last year, experts say the actual number of victims is likely to be far greater.
The South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault says that some victims, especially the newly arrived and those from non-English-speaking backgrounds, continue to remain silent.
"If you don't have English as a first language, if you're worrying about settlement issues, if you're scared that you might be deported because of your visa, you've got even more reasons to not tell," says SECASA manager Carolyn Worth. "There probably is a hidden group of people."
Crime figures released by Victoria Police show there were an extra 42 cases of sexual assault in Monash last year, bringing the total number to 153 — a rise of almost 38 per cent from the year before.
"It's the reporting that we know about, not the rate of sexual assault," Ms Worth said. "If it means 40 people felt comfortable reporting, that's a very good thing."
Most victims the centre saw over sexual assault were women aged between 16 and 28. Some victims were male. Men were the majority of offenders for both groups.
Ms Worth said it was harder for men to come forward and report sexual assault. "I think they find it particularly embarrassing. They often say things like, 'I should have been able to handle myself or fight them off'.
"And they always worry that the guy thought they were gay and that's why he attacked them. It's almost like it attacks their sense of what it is to be a male."
Ms Worth said the increased publicity on sexual assault through media coverage of the Royal Commission and the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child abuse had encouraged people to come forward.
"In the past it used to be Oprah deciding to talk to a victim of childhood sexual abuse on her show and we'd be inundated the next day with people ringing up to talk. I think there are still pockets of the community, small communities, where it's an extremely difficult thing to do."
South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault can be contacted on 9928 8741.