HUDSON — Preparing a student for college involves more than schedules, classes and roommates.

It involves an awareness of sexual assault, whether through a recognition of stalking and other behaviors, or by seeing something and saying something — and helping to keep friends safe.

Sponsored by the Zonta Club of Hudson, Jennifer O’Connell, director for Sexual and Relationship Violence Support Services at Kent State University, shared information for college-bound students about college campus sexual assault and violence Nov. 28 at the Hudson Library and Historical Society.

"With college campus sexual assault in the headlines more frequently, we want to bring college-bound students together with their parents to learn about how they can best prepare to be safe in the college campus environment," said Zonta Club President Lynn McMasters.

Sexual assault is a broad term for any physical sexual contact without consent, O'Connell said. It also includes anyone who cannot give consent due to incapacitation or disability.

In Ohio, anyone between 13 and 17 years old can give consent to have sex with someone also between the ages of 13 and 17, O'Connell said. Once someone turns 18, their partner must be at least 16 years old — or sexual contact is considered statutory rape.

"Parents need to talk with high school and college-bound students about dating and what is expected, how to say no to sex, and how to be open and honest talking about sex," O'Connell said. "Trust your gut and get out of a situation. Watch out for each other and always leave together."

On a college campus, students need to stay in groups at parties and look out for one another, she said.

"If you choose to drink, know how much you drink and what you are drinking," O'Connell said. "Don't leave a drink unattended or accept a drink mixed by someone else."

Parents should also be aware of victim blaming, which is the notion that "she dressed like that [provocative], what did she expect?" O'Connell said.

It's never the victim’s fault, she added.

O'Connell said it only takes one person to step forward to prevent sexual assault — and others will follow.

"If you see something that makes you uncomfortable, do something," O'Connell said.

Confrontation is one choice, but causing a distraction can break up bad behavior, she said. A shy person can tell a friend or someone in authority and encourage them to act. And it is a good idea to follow-up with the victim by asking them if they are all right.

Intimate partner violence can be more than physical, she said, especially when one person has power over another through verbal, emotional, mental or physical abuse, medical neglect or economic control. This can include stalking, isolation from peers and can escalate to physical assault to maintain that control.

"We see a lot of social media posts," O'Connell said. "The person is monitoring someone because they're jealous. They may threaten to kill themselves if the person leaves."

Stalkers may also continue to ask someone out even when the person has said no, O'Connell said.

Simple rules to follow include locking the door, being aware of surroundings, looking and listening when walking across campus, and always carrying a cell phone and cash for emergencies.

Victims should find a safe place and seek medical care immediately, O'Connell said, as there is a short window to collect evidence. Preserve any evidence such as clothing, sheets, texts and social media. Call police and file a report. Document the situation and add any new details as recalled.

O'Connell said Akron General Hospital has a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner who specializes in sexual assault cases and collecting physical evidence.

Colleges and universities are obligated to have programs in place because of Title IX, which states "No person in the United States, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of,or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

In addition, the The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act is a federal statute requiring colleges and universities which are participating in federal financial aid programs to maintain and disclose campus crime statistics and security information.

If a campus is aware of a crime, they must notify students, O'Connell said. KSU has Flash Alerts, an emergency text notification system.

No matter what campus a student attends, they should find out about any history of violence on the campus and programs available.

The Zonta Club of Hudson is an organization seeking to empower women and girls through service and advocacy. The group is commemorating Zonta International’s "16 Days of Activism" that takes place each year from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10. For more information, visit

Reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or