OTTAWA -- One in three people experience sexual violence in their lifetime.

In this third wave of the pandemic, officials at the Ottawa Hospital say they’ve seen an increase in those looking for help.

"We see anywhere between 500 to 650 new patients with sexual assault or intimate violence a year," said Dr. Kari Sampsel with the Ottawa Hospital’s Sexual Assault and Partner Abuse Care Program. 

In the first wave of the pandemic, the hospital saw a 60 per cent drop in patients seeking help. But by the second and third wave, the number had jumped back up.

"We only see the tip of the iceberg with what people experience," said Amina Doher with the Sexual Assault Support Centre Ottawa. She explained that at the start of the pandemic, many put dealing with their experience of sexual violence or trauma on hold.

"It’s hard for people to come to terms with how do I thrive when I’m just in survival mode right now," said Doher. 

And with many outlets like gyms and gatherings no longer accessible during the stay-at-home order, it can be a challenge for those who need help.

"Ultimately, how you address it is talking to the people around you,” she said.

Ottawa Police Insp. Heather Lachine says assault is defined as any unwanted sexual contact.

"It can be touching, catcalling, any unwanted sexual activity," said Lachine, also noting some who experience sexual violence often feel embarrassed, afraid or don’t know how to report it.

"They are in full control," she said. "If they choose not to go to court, they do not have to go to court and charges do not have to be laid."

The Ottawa Hospital also reminds people sexual assault can happen to anyone. In the last five years, 85 per cent were women, 13 per cent men and 2 per cent identifying as transgender.