Dozens of women have domestic violence complaints ignored by U.S. military: report

Dozens of women have domestic violence complaints ignored by U.S. military: report
© Photo courtesy CBS News

Dozens of women have had claims of domestic and sexual violence by intimate partners ignored by military commanders, according to a new report. 

A CBS News investigation, conducted over two years and published this week, detail a pattern of women being abused by spouses and, after reporting instances of violence to military leadership, finding their claims go largely ignored. 

More than 40 women who said they had reported instances of domestic violence to the military in recent years. Most of them described the system as broken, and suggested military leaders are unwilling to hold abusers accountable. 

ADVERTISEMENT

One of them was Army Major Leah Olszewski, who tearfully recounted being physically assaulted, and a miscarriage that she believes was as a result of her assault. Olszewski said she reported her abuse to the Air Force. 

"I had been strangulated. He had also threatened to break my neck, bust my front teeth out," Olszewski told CBS' Norah O'Donnell. "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."  

Roughly 100,000 incidents of domestic abuse have been reported to the military since 2015, the outlet reported. 

One woman, Liz Knight, called Army police after she was physically assaulted just weeks after giving birth abroad in 2018. 

"He had put hands on me and was physical," she said. "It was my breaking point. I had a 5-week-old infant. I felt like I needed to protect myself and my son." 

The outlet reported senior defense official said the Pentagon is making sure they "get after these problems," and called the pattern the women described as "heartbreaking" and "maddening." 

In a statement, Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinRepublican spin on Biden is off the mark Biden remarks on Taiwan leave administration scrambling Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan MORE said he is committed to combating domestic violence in the military, which he said continue to "plague our ranks." 

"President BidenJoe BidenOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Methane fee faces negotiations White House rejects latest Trump claim of executive privilege The No Surprises Act:  a bill long overdue MORE has placed an unprecedented priority on tackling this problem, and we've moved out quickly and deliberately to address it. I believe that bold action, commitment, and accountability are required, and that is exactly what we have, and will continue, to do," Austin said.

"This is not a short-term problem and will not be solved by short-term strategies. It requires sustained action and commitment at the highest level of the Department of Defense - every commander, civilian leader, and member of the force must be a necessary part of the solution," he added.