Damian Dovarganes, AP
Participants march against sexual assault and harassment at the #MeToo March in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

In an age of hashtags and trending pages that fade even faster than they flourish, Utah needs to stand out as a state that works toward substantive, effective and long-lasting change.

“Sexual assault” and “rape” have been buzzwords in the media during the past year. Celebrities have worn black to protest the treatment of women in Hollywood, Time magazine named the “Silence Breakers” as the people of the year, and the Me Too movement came to prominence in late 2017 as thousands of people used the tag #MeToo on social media to spread awareness about sexual assault.

While the Me Too movement is empowering for many survivors of sexual assault, the potency and durability of its time in the limelight remains to be seen. Remember Kony 2012? The Ice Bucket Challenge? Occupy Wall Street? They caught the public fervor for a moment, but when the dust settled we found society almost just as we left it.

At the time of writing, Google Trends shows that online use of the phrases “Me Too” and “sexual assault” have already fallen far behind phrases like “gun control.” While it is understandable for focus to ebb and flow as the world keeps turning and tragedies occur, it is disheartening that we seem stuck in a cycle of uproar, activism, saturation and forgetting. Wash, rinse and repeat.

Let’s change that trend, Utah.

Let’s be the state that makes lasting progress when it comes to ending sexual assault. Tarana Burke, founder of the Me Too movement, stated, “We need a complete cultural transformation if we are to eradicate sexual assault in our lifetimes.” Tarana is right. Ending sexual assault should not be merely a political or social movement, it should be an individual, familial and community evolution.

How do we channel the zeal of the Me Too movement into enduring cultural growth? We plant its seeds in the fertile soil of charity that Utah already cultivates. We consistently rank as the top state for volunteerism. We also top the chart for the state with the strongest social support systems. Let’s use our strengths to become the state that turns the tables on sexual assault.

Much of the work can be done in our own homes. Loving, supportive spaces are the perfect places to start having difficult conversations. Conversations should not be a one-time event; they should grow with our children (organizations such as RAINN and Stop It Now! provide information about how to approach these topics). Let’s educate ourselves about the myths and facts surrounding sexual assault and practice talking about these in our own homes. Let’s recognize that we are showing our love for our children and loved ones when we are brave and talk about sexual assault, even if it might be uncomfortable.

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Perhaps the most important cultural shift we can make is to come from a place of compassion. Let’s bring that charity to the forefront of the conversations about sexual assault. When we hear about sexual assault, who among us hasn’t thought something along the lines of, “Well maybe if she wasn’t drunk it wouldn’t have happened,” or “They should have screamed or something; if I was in that situation I would have”? It is difficult to admit, but I have thought things like this. These thoughts come from a place of self-protection. If we can find a reason it happened, we can convince ourselves that it wouldn’t happen to us. It’s a common reaction, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right one.

How empowering would it be to say to our loved ones “I will believe you, no matter what”? How brave would it be to say to ourselves “I am going to come from a place of compassion today. I am going to note my judgments and let go of them”?

Let’s be the state to end sexual assault. And let’s use our strengths to do it.