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CBS News investigation spurs action by Air Force to combat domestic violence

An inspector general review ordered by the Secretary of the Air Force following a CBS News investigation by Norah O'Donnell has found the Air Force must do more to establish trust with domestic violence victims in the early stages of reporting and investigations. 

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall ordered the review after a September 2021 CBS News investigation into domestic violence in the military included the stories of survivors who reported abuse to the Air Force

As a result of the review, Kendall has directed a new 90-day review to assess how victims are supported in the Air Force. According to an Air Force spokesperson, the effort includes partnering with outside organizations and former military spouses who experienced domestic violence to ensure the Air Force is offering the appropriate services for potential victims. 

Over the past year, the Air Force has also launched multiple initiatives to address domestic violence, including establishing an electronic system that allows Domestic Abuse Violence Advocates to maintain records longer to better identify repeat domestic violence offenders. The Office of Special Investigations has also hired 86 more special agents to investigate violence. 

"Domestic violence has no place in our Air and Space Forces — it breaks the bonds of our service family, destroys individuals, families, and our communities, and is illegal," Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said in a statement to CBS News on Friday.

"While we have taken actions to improve victim response and support programs, there is more work to be done in earning and sustaining the trust of survivors," Kendall said. 

CBS News' two-year investigation into domestic violence in the military found that roughly 100,000 incidents of domestic abuse have been reported to the military since 2015. Nearly 40 domestic violence survivors told CBS News that the military failed to protect them. 

Among those who spoke to CBS News was now-retired Master Sergeant Erica Johnson, who told Air Force leaders in 2019 that she was being physically and sexually assaulted. The Air Force's Office of Special Investigations opened an investigation, but it "didn't go anywhere," Johnson said.

Kendall ordered the review of cases of domestic violence in the Air Force within days after CBS News' investigation aired on the CBS Evening News with Norah O'Donnell in September 2021. 

Norah O'Donnell, Kristin Steve, Adam Verdugo and David Martin contributed to this report. 

CBS News investigation into domestic abuse in the military:

"It was severe betrayal": Military has failed to address domestic violence, survivors say

One woman reported domestic violence to the Air Force. This is how its investigation unfolded

The Pentagon has spent $1 billion on a program for domestic abuse victims since 2015. Survivors say they couldn't get help

Military's domestic violence crisis compounded after 20 years of war

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