Although violence against women has been pervasive for a long time in Russian culture [9
], controversy emerges over whether women are as violent as men in Russia as well as in other countries [10
]. The present study provides new evidence that Russian women had a similar IPV perpetration rate as Russian men, suggesting that violence against men should not be neglected. A meta-analytic review of 82 IPV studies even shows that women were slightly more likely than men to perpetrate IPV, despite that women were more likely to be injured [18
]. It is important to note that a majority of studies in this review were carried out in the United States. Further research considering gender role on IPV in Russia is still needed.
In the present study, we found that alcohol misuse was significantly associated with IPV among patients attending an STI clinic in St. Petersburg, Russia, which is consistent with results from previous studies conducted in Russia [11
] and elsewhere [4
]. Both direct (e.g., through psychopharmacological pathway) and indirect (e.g., marital conflicts) effects of alcohol misuse on IPV may explain our results. To further examine which one specifically explains the results among the participants, we need to collect information regarding whether alcohol misuse occurs immediately prior to the IPV, which was not available in the present study. Besides the two possible pathways, it has been reported that antisocial personalities may also explain the association [23
The observed association is of concern given the high level of alcohol misuse among both Russian men and women. Although the prevalence of alcohol misuse observed in the present study is lower than that observed in another study conducted in Arkhangelsk, Russia by using AUDIT criteria [2
], it remains high compared to prevalence found in the United States [24
]. This finding suggests that efforts to reduce IPV in Russia shall consider the effects of alcohol misuse. Although disagreement exists regarding the question of whether there is enough information to act on IPV through alcohol reduction [26
], some studies have provided evidence supporting such interventions [22
]. In a study conducted among 301 male alcoholic patients from two alcoholism clinics in the northeastern United States, an integrated treatment approach for alcoholism consisting of 26 planned sessions decreased the prevalence rate of IPV by more than 50% [22
]. The sessions included an intake assessment, a physical examination, eight individual therapy sessions, and 16 group therapy sessions over a 12-week period. It has also been reported that some brief counseling interventions could cost-effectively reduce alcohol misuse [28
]. More studies should be conducted in order to determine whether such brief counseling interventions on alcohol misuse can reduce IPV, particularly in countries such as Russia that feature a high level of alcohol consumption and a cultural IPV tolerance [14
A striking finding of this study is that participants who usually drank on the street or at parks were more likely to perpetrate IPV than those without this preference. It should be noted that this association was observed after controlling for important confounders in the present study such as alcohol misuse, marital status, and monthly income. Previous studies have reported that drinking at bars is independently associated with violence [6
]. For example, a study that used data from the 1984, 1995, and 2005 U.S. National Alcohol Surveys implied that bar drinkers tended to report more arguments and fighting than home drinkers, controlling for potential confounders such as the overall volume of alcohol consumed and the frequency of heavy drinking [29
]. The authors argued that this association might result from the clustering of intoxicated people, as well as from fewer restrictions on social behaviors due to the looser norms in bars [29
]. It is possible that the fewer restrictions theory may also explain our finding, since drinking at streets or parks may be less restrictive even than drinking at bars. If this is the case, policies restricting people drinking on the streets or at parks may effectively reduce IPV.
An alternative explanation for the association between drinking on the streets or at parks and IPV is that drinking on the streets or at parks may have a distal influence on IPV. That is to say, certain factors underlying this drinking preference may be a risk for IPV. For example, those who usually drink on the street or in parks may share similar cultural environments in which IPV may be more common compared to those who drink at other locations. It has been reported that in some cultures, drinking may serve as an excuse for IPV [6
]. If this is the case, it is more important to identify these people rather than restrict them from drinking on the street or in parks. Longitudinal studies that analyze contextual drinking patterns of individuals in conjunction with patters of groups of individuals would help us gain a better understanding of contextual alcohol intake. Such understanding is important for the development of appropriate IPV prevention strategies.
The study has several limitations. First, the prevalence of IPV in the past three months might be underestimated because self-reported IPV measurements are likely to be affected by a social desirability bias. To minimize such bias, self-administered questionnaires were used to collect information. Second, the method used to identify significant drinking contexts may increase the chances of detecting a significant association because a series of logistic regression models were conducted to examine the relationship between different drinking contexts and IPV. Third, the confidence interval for the association between drinking context and IPV is relatively wide; this suggests that future studies with larger sample sizes may be needed to better understand such correlations. Fourth, the results may not be generalized to other populations or clinical settings. Fifth, this is a cross-sectional study and thus a causal relationship cannot be established.