By Jackie Glosniak
A recent shooting in Berwyn has led authorities to urge residents to be vigilant about the signs of domestic abuse, and to take action when they see it.
Earlier this month, a suicide and attempted murder struck the North Berwyn community. During the early morning hours on Oct. 5, a man shot and wounded a woman before killing himself in a home in the 1300 block of Home Avenue. When Berwyn Police arrived at the scene, they found two victims bleeding from their faces.
Juan Quezada, 35, of Westchester, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the mouth and was pronounced dead on the scene. Before turning the gun on himself, Quezada shot his 30-year-old wife. The woman, whose name was not released, was immediately taken to an area hospital, but had no life-threatening injuries.
At the time of the shooting, the two victims were separated. The wife had recently moved to Berwyn with her three young sons-all under the age of 10. The sons were sleeping during the shooting and were not harmed.
According to Berwyn Police Commander James Sassetti, the police had not received any prior phone calls from the house or from neighbors suspecting trouble. No neighbors had reported seeing anything suspicious in the month that the mother and her sons had lived in the house, he said.
Berwyn Mayor Robert Lovero said domestic abuse is a perennial issue.
“Domestic abuse is a problem the courts have been trying to figure out for a long, long time,” he said. “Not just in Berwyn specifically, but it’s predominant all around.”
According to Sassetti, the number of recent calls to the Berwyn Police Station regarding domestic abuse have “not been out of the ordinary.”
Both Sassetti and Lovero emphasized the danger that domestic abuse situations raise for the police officers who are called.
“Domestic related calls are one of the most dangerous for police to respond to because of the adrenaline and psychological factors as well as them being argumentative in nature,” Lovero said.
When domestic abuse occurs, friends and family may be left wondering what they could have done to prevent things from happening in the first place, said domestic violence expert Charles Stoops. Since cases of domestic abuse are hard to pinpoint, it is not always easy for outside parties to intervene.
“In a lot of cases of domestic abuse, the use of public physical violence is relatively rare, and so it doesn’t actually surprise me that neighbors didn’t know,” said Stoops, who is the dean and an associate professor at the Graduate School of Social Work at Dominican University in River Forest.
“If neighbors suspect abuse, I encourage them to reach out to the victim at a time where the victim is safe to talk to them and make sure the potential abuser isn’t present,” he said.
Because domestic abuse is often private, it is often hard for outside people to even know if it is happening. According to Stoops, some of the biggest tell-tale signs of domestic abuse include the victim becoming isolated, making excuses for injuries that don’t fit the appearance, and not wanting to spend time out of the home.
“If you have a neighbor who starts not being around and not being friendly anymore, that’s a real sign,” Stoops said.
When children are involved, problems in the classroom or with friends can be warning signs of abuse in the home.
Stoops also warns that marital separation, such as in this case, can heighten the risk of abuse.
“More serious violence happens in the time of separation,” Stoops explained. “People many times ask why the person doesn’t leave, and it’s because the person is told something very bad will happen if they leave. It takes a long time to feel that you can leave without risking your life. Many times, children and other family members are threatened as well.”
In the event that neighbors suspect domestic abuse occurring on their block, authorities say there are steps which they can take to alert officials and prevent further abuse from happening.
Berwyn’s Neighborhood Watch Program plays a large role in combating abuse crimes in town.
“We have a very large Neighborhood Watch Program, and in fact, we’ve tripled its numbers in the last few years,” Mayor Lovero said. “We always tell people that they’re the eyes and ears, because our police department can’t be everywhere.”
Mayor Lovero encourages residents of Berwyn who suspect domestic abuse to dial 911.
Stoops cautioned against intervening directly with a suspected abuser.
“If they do, they should really try to speak to the person who they think is the victim,” Stoops said. “No matter how angry or frustrated they are, it really raises the risk of the victim if they confront the abuser.”
Stoops also advises that talking to social workers or victim service agencies is always helpful if individuals want further ideas as to how to approach potential abuse victims.
Police have no further information regarding the surviving victim and her family.