Although the news coverage this year contained no hint of it, Hot August Nights is a dangerous time for women and children. It is one of the worst weeks of the year for domestic violence, and this year was no different.
The Committee to Aid Abused Women saw calls seeking help jump from 194 the week before Hot August Nights to 232 during the event. Last year, there were 196 calls for help during the week of the festival.
At the Temporary Protection Order office in the Washoe courthouse annex, director Barbara Spring reports that applications for TPOs increased from 48 last year to 58 this year. That number represents a slight decrease from 64 applications the week before Hot August Nights.
Abuse incident numbers during other special events in the area have not generally jumped out at domestic abuse workers as dramatically as the numbers during Hot August Nights. The air races and balloon races, for instance, have not gained the reputation for violence that Hot August Nights has. The Sparks Farmers’ Market, however, has recently seen more drinking and arrests.
CAAW director Joni Kaiser says Hot August Nights combines several factors—heat, crowds and drinking—into a volatile mix.
“It’s August, it’s hot, it’s summer vacation,” she said. “By the time the other events like the balloon races happen, things are settling down. The kids are back in school; the weather is cooler.”
Kaiser says media coverage of Hot August Nights has been misleading and a disservice because it put an upbeat spin on the event—even when it was not deserved. No media entity in the valley reported on the domestic violence dangers, none provided contact numbers people could call for help, and at least one television station reported that crime was down during the event based on numbers from only one agency.
Kaiser says her agency’s shelter for spouses and children filled up during Hot August Nights, which led to her discovery of one item showing the way media outlets engage in boosterism. When the shelter is full, CAAW tries to put victims in motel rooms. Her agency’s staff thought they might not be able to do that this year, because news reporters kept saying that all motel rooms in the city were full. When they called motels, however, they found plenty of vacancies.
“There were lots of empty motel rooms available at a time when reporters were saying there were not,” she said.