Just because of the frequency of sexual assault among college-age women, your potential partner may already have experienced sexual assault, attempted sexual assault or otherwise unwanted sexual attention, either in college or earlier in her life. She may be unsure about or afraid of sex or of being victimized again. She may not feel safe enough, or may feel too ashamed, to tell you, or may feel it is not your business to know. This will require you to go at her pace; to honor her privacy; to make yourself a safe person to be with; and to respect without question her physical boundaries.
Unfortunately, most men do not yet even recognize that there is a problem here, and fewer still acknowledge responsibility for any part of it. As a result, rape is seen, if at all, as a "women's issue". The impression remains that men are in no way connected to sexual assault, neither in its occurrence, nor through its effects, nor by its causes.
Men, mothers and other women need the gift of your cooperation in the fight against sexual violence.
Men, you may not realize it, but sexual assault and sexual abuse negatively impact your life, even if you never become a primary victim and never victimize others. Because of rapists, good women may shy away from you or look at you with suspicion even though you would never harm them. The woman you love may have seemingly irrational phobias and hangups that keep her just beyond your reach. Other, more jaded, women may view you as an inherently violent, exploitive creature who deserves to be exploited in return.
Men, since you are at lower risk of sexual violence, you may not realize that the aftershocks of rape and sexual abuse can be so great that victims kill or numb themselves to a dangerous level. The criminal act might be measured in minutes, but the pain of the violation combined with the pain caused by victim blaming that seems to be everywhere after a rape can last for years or a lifetime.
Men, when you talk about sexual violence don't say anything you wouldn't say to someone who is a true victim of criminal sexual violence because you never know when you are doing just that. Also think about how rapists could interpret your words and don't give them reason to believe you are on their side.
Men, if you feel the need to debate statistics or laws related to sexual violence, remember the humanity of the victims before you ask women to sympathize with your fears or your concerns. If you want women to empathize with men falsely accused of rape, then you need to empathize with women who are falsely given that label.
Men, if you would never talk in a certain way about your mother no matter what she's done, don't talk that way about alleged victims (or accusers) even if everything you know about them makes them look unworthy of respect. If the negative talk about the accuser is coming from a man accused of rape, remember that manipulation is a favorite tool of many rapists. Rapists may have as little consideration for you as they have for their victims. Pulling a fast one on you may give them a thrill as satisfying as rape.
Men, don't attack victims for the crime of not evading rape or sexual abuse. When other men vilify victims, don't support them explicitly or implicitly. If it isn't safe to do more, walk away. If the intention is to protect victims from sexual attack, there are ways of doing this without blaming victims for another person's actions.
Men, if you love women, then you should hate it when they are harmed without a second thought or an ounce of regret. You should hate it when serious and long lasting damage is dismissed as a brief, youthful mistake that never should have been criminalized.
Men, with your help, the fight against sexual assault and sexual abuse can be a cooperative fight against violence and exploitation rather than a fight between men and women. If you are in the trenches with women fighting sexual violence, you can help us realize what actions have unwanted side effects for innocent men.
Men, you can talk to boys and young men before they get into situations where they can be accused (rightly or wrongly) of rape or abuse. You can dispel dangerous myths before they lead a boy or man into dangerous territory.
Men, if you are anti-feminist, then working to eliminate sexual violence and exploitation will take away something feminists use to attack you.
Lastly, men, if you've tried to get involved and got attacked for being a man, you may have accidentally said something that triggered the person or people you were talking to. Or you may have repeated a damaging rape myth. Or you may have interpreted something as an attack on you because it challenged beliefs you've accepted without question. If you believe that sexual violence is something worth fighting and one avenue of helping doesn't welcome you, look for other avenues. Don't lose the battle after losing the first skirmish.