The Hill

Opinion: We need to protect women from the ‘woke’ Violence Against Women Act

By Andrea G. Bottner, opinion contributor

As we approach the anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), lawmakers should consider renaming it.

This bipartisan, landmark legislation was first enacted in 1994 to respond to the fact that the victims of domestic violence are usually women. The legislation gave women seeking assistance the critical resources they need and a way forward to a better life. Sadly, as the legislation has been reauthorized and re-evaluated over the years, women are no longer the priority.

Instead, radical gender activists have sought to allow anyone who “identifies” as a woman to enter a shelter and women-only spaces. Women are no longer prioritized in the Violence Against Women Act — at the very least, they deserve some transparency.

In 2013, there was language included in VAWA that defined who cannot be turned away from services by listing “gender identity” alongside race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. The provision meant that domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, homeless shelters and other facilities serving women at risk cannot turn away biological men who identify as women. At the time, there was debate about this provision being included and concerns were raised that women might not be comfortable with biological men being allowed into their places of refuge. Women lost that fight and the VAWA was forever changed.

Those who support biological men being granted access to women’s shelters say that a women’s shelter is the safest option for these men, as these biological men could be in danger if they tried to use a men’s shelter. However, a woman who was just brutalized and sought escape might not be comfortable when a biological man becomes her roommate in the very place she thought she would be safe.

There needs to be a different solution so that the safety of both biological men and women can be ensured. Perhaps a small portion of the hundreds of millions of dollars authorized by Congress to the VAWA could be put toward exploring the idea of hybrid shelters.

Thankfully, there are some lawmakers who remain concerned about the safety and comfort of women in the shelters. Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) has brought this issue up repeatedly. Lesko is a domestic violence survivor. She has argued against allowing transgender women in shelters: “The most egregious provisions of this bill push leftist gender ideology at the expense of important protections for women’s privacy and security.”

Unfortunately, in the past 10 years, the invasion of biological men into women’s spaces has only increased. Men are not only knocking on shelter doors, they are joining women’s athletic teams, pushing into women’s locker rooms and even joining women’s sororities. The trend seems to be clear: make way for the men and don’t consider the safety, security or privacy of the women.

Since the Violence Against Women Act doesn’t really stand for women any longer, we need something that does. The Independent Women’s Voice Women’s Bill of Rights, recently introduced in the U.S. Congress, defines exactly what a woman is and recognizes there are legitimate reasons to distinguish between the sexes with respect to athletics, prisons and other detention facilities, domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, restrooms, locker rooms and other places where biology, safety and or privacy are implicated.

One of the bill’s original sponsors, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), is well-aware of the attack on women’s privacy and security. “One of the many problems with these radical notions to redefine male and female is that they end up doing more harm than good,” Hyde-Smith said. “Our resolution simply affirms the biological differences between males and females under federal law, ensuring that womanhood is not erased by the ‘woke’ left’s reckless attempts to be inclusive.”

Common sense is starting to find its way into the states when it comes to recognizing the differences between men and women. Just last month, Kevin Stitt became the first governor in the country to put the Women’s Bill of Rights into place via executive order in Oklahoma. “Today, we’re taking a stand against this out-of-control gender ideology that is eroding the very foundation of our society,” he said. “We are going to be safeguarding the very essence of what it means to be a woman.”

This legislation has been embraced in the states of Kansas, Tennessee and, most recently, Nebraska. Defining what a woman is should help bring clarity to the raging public debate about where women and men belong. Perhaps the next time the VAWA is up for re-authorization, common sense and respect for the security of women will be in better supply.

Andrea G. Bottner is former acting director of the Office on Violence Against Women at the U.S. Department of Justice and vice president of external relations for Independent Women’s Voice.