EAST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — For a lady with “Merry” as a first name, it can be a challenge to not let sadness overcome Christmastime in the Jackson family.
It is the family’s third Christmas without Lori.
“There is a big hole in the family. My heart breaks every morning I get up. It’s like, how did we get to this point,” said Merry Jackson.
Merry Jackson cannot forget how frightening life become for her daughter Lori and their family.
Lori Jackson had a restraining order out against her husband Scott Gellatly, and they did all they can to get away from him.
“When we left our house, we left with a police escort because he said he was coming to our house. So they walked my daughter and I out with our two babies, my husband wasn’t home from work yet. That’s very scary,” said Jackson.
The family had a security system, even wore panic alarms around their necks.
They had thought Gellatly was far away in Virginia.
“When my daughter’s husband left, he left with a gun. That was always on the back of her mind that if he ever approached us, he would have a gun,” said Jackson.
He eventually found them.
Gellatly broke into their Oxford home.
He shot Lori four times.
Merry Jackson suffered a gunshot wound to the head.
Scott Gellatly was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
The Jackson family then worked to help other women.
They championed legislation that prohibits gun possession by people subject to a temporary restraining order.
“We know that in the majority of domestic violence, a gun is the primary use of force,” said Karen Jarmoc, of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Major challenges still face women trying to escape abusive relationships.
Shelters across the state are overflowing at 125 percent capacity.
“One of the reasons is that victims and their families are staying long, they are saying around 46 days on average. That’s because it’s a complex issue, housing employment, child care,” said Jarmoc.
Simply put, more victims are coming forward, but there is less money and less resources to help.
Connecticut is at a tipping point.
“We are definitely at a stage where we need to talk through what may or may not happen if things get even worse,” said Jarmoc.
For one mom who knows what can happen, it’s a terrifying thought.
“Every life is important and every person deserves a place to go to be safe,” said Merry Jackson.
For now, help is there.
Merry Jackson’s message this Christmas is to use it.
“If they want to protect their future holidays, make a move to protect yourself,” said Jackson.
The 24-hour domestic abuse hotline for those in need is: 888-774-2900