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09.07.2021

AN EXCLUSIVE CBS NEWS INVESTIGATION LED BY NORAH O’DONNELL FINDS THE MILITARY IS FAILING TO SUPPORT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SURVIVORS AND HOLD THEIR ALLEGED OFFENDERS ACCOUNTABLE

IN ON-CAMERA INTERVIEWS WITH O’DONNELL, MILITARY SPOUSES, PARTNERS AND SERVICE MEMBERS WHO REPORTED DOMESTIC VIOLENCE TO THE MILITARY SAY THEIR ALLEGATIONS WERE DISMISSED

THE TWO-YEAR-LONG INVESTIGATION UNCOVERS A “FORGOTTEN CRISIS” OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN THE MILITARY – CBS NEWS’ REPORTING REVEALS THE PENTAGON DOESN’T KEEP COMPREHENSIVE STATISTICS ON CONSEQUENCES FOR OFFENDERS

WATCH PART ONE HERE; READ MORE ON CBSNEWS.COM HERE

PART ONE OF THE EXCLUSIVE FOUR-PART INVESTIGATIVE SERIES AIRED TODAY ON “CBS MORNINGS” (7:00-9:00 AM)

MORE WILL AIR TONIGHT ON THE “CBS EVENING NEWS WITH NORAH O’DONNELL” (6:30-7:00 PM, ET) AND THE SERIES CONTINUES TOMORROW ON WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 8

  • In part one of the four-part investigative series, Norah O’Donnell sat down with three survivors about what they call a “forgotten crisis” of domestic violence and how the military failed to protect them. Two of the alleged offenders are still serving and one retired honorably.

  • Army Major Leah Olszewski says she had a miscarriage because of domestic violence: “He kicked me in the side of the stomach. And I flew off the bed into the closet doors. And then, he took the comforter, and walked off like nothing had happened.”

  • Weeks after Liz Knight had given birth in South Korea, she called Army police for the first time: “It was my breaking point. I felt like I needed to protect myself and my son.”

  • Military police found probable cause to charge Knight’s alleged perpetrator with assault, but his commander only issued a local letter of reprimand as a consequence. “The minute he left South Korea, where it happened, it was wiped clean from his record, as if it never happened,” Knight says.

  • Survivors say the apparent lack of accountability has led to a very real sense of fear. “He’s going to do this to someone else...the next person he’s going to kill. There’s no doubt in my mind. And he knows how to get away with it. He’s told me as much,” said Ret. Master Sergeant Erica Johnson

  • In response to CBS News’ reporting, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says he takes these issues and their impact on the men and women of the services and their families with the utmost seriousness: “Sexual assault, sexual harassment and domestic violence continue to plague our ranks.”

A two-year long investigation by CBS EVENING NEWS anchor and managing editor Norah O’Donnell and the CBS News Investigative Unit into domestic violence within the military has uncovered systemic failures to support victims and hold their alleged offenders accountable. The U.S. military has received roughly 100,000 reported incidents of domestic abuse since 2015. During that same time, the Pentagon spent more than a billion dollars on a program meant to help victims. Over the course of the investigation, CBS News spoke to nearly 40 survivors who reported abuse to all branches of service, who tell CBS News their allegations were dismissed and blame the military’s broken system for failing to keep them safe.

The exclusive four-part investigative series began today, Tuesday, Sept. 7, during the debut of CBS MORNINGS (7:00-9:00 AM, ET/PT). More of the series will air tonight on the CBS EVENING NEWS WITH NORAH O’DONNELL (6:30-7:00 PM, ET/PT) and will continue tomorrow, Wednesday, Sept. 8.

O’Donnell appeared live on the debut of CBS MORNINGS to report part one of the investigation.

O’Donnell’s on-camera interviews include: four domestic violence survivors, a former attorney for the U.S. Army who has worked with dozens of survivors, a long-serving former victim specialist with the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, and a domestic abuse advocate who has worked with hundreds of victims within the military.

In part one of the investigation, O’Donnell speaks with three survivors as they recount their experience and traumas. “The soldier is an asset. They need him. They have spent a lot of money to train him to do his job. And who am I? As long as I’m removed and I’m not part of the problem, then they have their soldier,” said one victim.

Part two of the series features interviews with a survivor who began reporting physical abuse to the military in 2018 and the victim specialist with the D.C. Police Department she turned to for support. “My allegations are not taken seriously. Nobody’s allegations are taken seriously,” the victim tells O’Donnell.

In part three of the series, a former attorney for the Army who has worked with dozens of survivors, speaks out to O’Donnell. He describes the problem as a crisis and says victims aren’t getting the help they deserve. “Until there’s drastic change, I think we’ll see the same trends. Domestic violence in the military, I think, will persist.”

In part four of the investigation, O’Donnell sits down with an advocate who’s worked with hundreds of victims. She says resources offered by the Pentagon aren’t enough and the consequences are dire: “This is significant trauma. Women who are abused have a very difficult time seeking employment, staying with employment. There’s the consequence of losing health care. There’s the consequence of not being able to support your children and having them taken from you.”

In a written statement responding to CBS News’ report, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said: “Sexual assault, sexual harassment and domestic violence continue to plague our ranks. These crimes have profoundly damaging, and sometimes lethal, consequences for service members and our families, and fundamentally impact our combat readiness…. I take these issues, and the impact on the men and women of the services and their families, with the utmost seriousness….” (Read the full statement on CBSNews.com here)

This latest series builds on O’Donnell’s original reporting dedicated to issues of injustice and delivering public service journalism with impact. O’Donnell’s report follows her Scripps Howard Award-winning investigation on sexual assault in the U.S. military, which was met with a swift response by the military ordering reforms to their sexual assault and prevention programs, and her Emmy Award-winning report into sexual assaults at the U.S. Air Force Academy. The investigation continues O’Donnell’s commitment to covering military affairs issues, including launching “Profiles in Service,” a CBS EVENING NEWS series highlighting stories of veterans across the country and how they’re contributing to their communities.

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Press Contact:

Brooke Lorenz: Lorenzb@cbsnews.com

Press:

Brooke Lorenz
202-457-4444
LorenzB@cbsnews.com