NATO may be close to creating a research task group dedicated to the study and prevention of sexual violence in the military.

Sara Kintzle, research assistant professor at the Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, participated in a three-day meeting in Bucharest, Romania, in September to explore the possibility of researching sexual harassment, stalking and assault in the military. Other countries represented were Canada, Croatia, Germany, Romania, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Kintzle presented findings about sexual assault in the U.S. military, including data from a 2014 RAND survey that found nearly 5 percent of active-duty female service members and 1 percent of male service members experienced sexual assault in the past year. Other studies show that among veteran populations there was a higher prevalence of sexual assault for both groups. The rate could be even higher since it’s known that the majority of sexual assaults are not reported, Kintzle said.

“The United States is far ahead on this topic,” she said. “Even though there are a lot of limitations, we’re actually conducting research. Our military is invested in this topic and in training programs.”

Kintzle said that the United States is one of the few countries looking into sexual assault and harassment.

“A lot of people interpret that having no data means they don’t have a problem,” she said. “A NATO group will give this topic prominence and push more people and countries to think about it.”

The purpose of the exploratory meeting was to gauge the level of interest. Based on the discussions, participants decided to apply to become a full NATO research task group.

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