A small Victorian country town has been "ripped apart" by a shocking crime committed against a young woman by two friends she thought she could trust.
In Balmoral, a four-hour drive west from Melbourne, the tiny, once-tight-knit community of less than 200 people is struggling to move forward, three years after a rape that saw the victim flee interstate and the perpetrators jailed.
Shaun Bloomfield and Luke Merryfull, both 24, raped their friend inside a caravan at Balmoral during a 21st birthday party in 2016.
They asked her if she wanted a "threesome" and when she told them "no … no way" they refused to listen.
They wedged her between them in the bed and took turns raping her. A Victorian County Court judge jailed them both on Wednesday.
"On the other hand, the victim's family came here with no family connections," the community member said.
"In a small community like this there is a huge bias which has resulted in some people taking sides with Bloomfield and Merryfull."
She said the victim's family has been "ostracised" and "turned against" by Bloomfield and Merryfull's supporters.
The caravan where the rape took place sits on a property close to a main road. It's visible from the footpath used by children who walk to and from school, locals say.
"Every time people drive past this property that caravan sits there right in front of their faces," a community member said.
The court heard last week that the men were first time offenders and were revered in their local community. They have steady jobs and their respective employers are standing by them.
The Leopold Football Club where Merryfull played until he was jailed offered a glowing character reference.
And Judge Mullaly said Bloomfield was "brave" and showed good character because two years prior to raping his friend he saved two people from drowning.
He said Bloomfield's actions were a "factor" in the length of his sentence.
The treatment of the convicted rapist even surprised his lawyer. Fraser Cameron, who represented Bloomfield in court, told news.com.au "this is the first time in 13 years I've seen (a previous contribution to society) referred to explicitly in sentencing remarks.
"Can't say many, if any, of my clients have been able to call on something as significant as that in their favour," he said.
But the judge also slammed the pair for their actions.
He called the rape of a friend "shameful" and said the "devastating impact on the victim is still resonating".
The victim, who cannot be named, was enjoying what Judge Mullaly said was her right to drink alcohol at a 21st birthday party in Balmoral, in western Victoria.
The court heard she has since moved interstate and fears returning to Victoria. She can't study or go outside without being accompanied by somebody she trusts. Nor can she work.
In a victim impact statement tendered to court, the woman said she was a shadow of her former self.
"The last three years of my life have been the worst I've had to go through," she said. "Two friends I trusted … this crime will always have an impact on my life."
The court heard the victim was once very active and loved sports but "can't do those things without significant stress now".
She has seen a therapist fortnightly for three years and hopes to overcome the Post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety she suffers from.
Her mother said she was "once the life of the party" but has lost her spirit.