The domestic conflicts between Bahaa Sam and Nermeen Gamal Sam were known among some of their neighbors in the Brookside Glen subdivision where they lived.
Some of those neighbors did what they could to help— asking at times for police to do well-being checks, watching the couple's four children or testifying in court. Sadly, it wasn't enough to stop a tragedy from happening.
. He was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder. Court records show Bahaa Sam faced domestic battery charges in 2005 and 2012. The 2012 charge was reduced to battery, and Bahaa Sam was found not guilty of the 2005 charge, according to court records.
Nermeen Sam's death illustrates the complex nature of domestic abuse cases that leave friends and family members wondering where the line is between respecting privacy and preventing tragic consequences.
"A lot of people do feel like … they don't want to interfere," said Karen Wegrzyn, director of development at the Crisis Center for South Suburbia, a nonprofit emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence. "But not saying something … can lead to like something that happened [Wednesday]."
Wegrzyn knows firsthand what it's like to consider how involved to become in the domestic situation of a someone close. Her husband's cousin was killed in a domestic violence case that turned into a murder-suicide.
"It's such a horrible tragedy," she said. "You look at it from every possible angle."
The center encourages people who suspect a loved one is a domestic abuse victim to be understanding, Wegryzn said. In fact, one of the best things to do can just be listening, she added.
One of the first things they can do is offer help," Wegryzn said. "Do they need someone to talk to or somewhere to go? … Just say, 'Let me know if I can help you with anything.' You don't even have to mention domestic violence."
In some cases, informing local law enforcement to do a well-being check or to possibly investigate a domestic situation can be very helpful, Wegryzn said.
Ultimately, it comes to the victim to seek and accept help. Wegryzn compares domestic abuse cases to dealing with addiction. Like addicts or alcoholics, domestic violence victims not only need to recognize they have a problem, but also want help dealing with it, she said.
"It kinda boils down to what that victim is willing to do," Wegryzn said. "The victim needs to be willing to reach out for help. You can't force help on anyone."
That's why education is so important when it comes to being proactive about preventing domestic violence. The center holds programs to show people how to tell the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship.
READ: Husband Charged With Murder in Wife's Death in Brookside Glen
Is there a single curative that friends and relatives can apply to help domestic abuse victims escape from their circumstances and not suffer the same fate as Nermeen Sam? Unfortunately, no.
"How to prevent something like that from happening? Gosh, I wish we knew, because we'd save a lot more lives," Wegryzn said.
Crisis Center for South Suburbia
The Tinley Park center offers a variety of programs and services to help victims of domestic violence throughout the Southland. Go to the center's website for more information.
- 24-hour hotline: 708-429-7233. Staff and trained volunteers provide intervention and referral services for callers.
- Emergency shelter: Open to women and children, the short-term shelter can house up to 35 women and children for 60 days.
- Counseling: A free service for women and children suffering from domestic abuse.
- Transitional housing: Program gives victims a safe apartment for up to 12 months.
Warning Signs of Domestic Abuse
- Afraid or anxious to please his or her partner.
- Goes along with everything his or her partner says and does.
- Check in often with partner.
- Frequent, harassing phone calls from his or her partner.
- Talks partner’s temper, jealousy or possessiveness.
Signs of Physical Violence
- Frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents.”
- Frequently misses work, school or social occasions without explanation.
- Dresses in a way to hide bruises or scars.
- Low self-esteem, even if the person had been confident.
- Major personality changes.
- Depressed, anxious or suicidal.
- Taking blame for things going wrong.
Steps on How to Help
- Ask in private if something is wrong.
- Express concern.
- Explain why you're worried
- Listen and validate.
- Offer help.
- Support his or her decisions.
SOURCE: Crisis Center for South Suburbia
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