Extreme heat danger: Domestic violence increases

Recognizing signs of overheating or irritability can help people prevent arguments from escalating to violence.

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Saturday, September 10, 2022
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The extreme heat the Central Valley has experienced this week might come with violent consequences for some people.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The health dangers of boiling hot summer days are not limited to exhaustion and heat stroke caused by exposure.

Rising temperatures are also associated with violence.

"Typically you'll see more shootings," said Marjaree Mason Center Executive Director Nicole Linder. "You'll see more violent behaviors, including domestic violence during the summer months."

Linder says the domestic violence shelter and support organization typically get busier in the heat.

Police have a similar experience, getting more calls like one in central Fresno Friday.

"It's a male and female," an officer said over scanners. "He supposedly possibly hit him over the head with a tent pole."

As temperatures broke records over the last three days, local law enforcement officers have booked 47 people into the Fresno County Jail for crimes of domestic violence.

Linder says extreme heat can exacerbate the emotions leading to violence.

"I think it just becomes another factor that causes stress and irritability in people," she said. "And it just layers on top of potentially other factors that are stressful."

A few scientific studies have tried to determine just how connected the heat and domestic violence are.

A 2018 study determined heat waves are associated with an increase in intimate partner violence.

The risk of police reports rises a day into a heat wave.

Domestic violence homicides increase three days into a heat wave.

Linder says recognizing signs of overheating or irritability can help people prevent escalating from arguments to violence by taking steps to cool off.

"So some of those things could be getting up and taking a walk inside - obviously outside is not safe and healthy right now," she said. "Or, making as choice to go to bed early so you can get up early and go for that walk before the sun comes up, getting a glass of water, taking a breath, finding music."

The Central Valley is forecast to cool off this weekend, but researchers warn that climate change will mean most summers will be hotter, creating more risk for domestic violence.

If you are the victim of domestic abuse, or you know someone who is, there is help available 24/7. In Fresno County, call the Marjaree Mason Center at (559) 233-4357. In all other locations, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233.