CLEVELAND — For a long time, Jessica Patzell didn’t feel like she had a voice.
“I was married very young,” she said. “My relationship was abusive before we got married and I really thought if I loved him enough and tried hard enough and if I was like, this perfect wife and mother that it would get better and getting married really only made things worse.”
In 2008, the Canton native was a wife and a mom of two and from the outside looking in, things looked perfect, but she was hiding a dark secret.
“Once we got married it just went from like bad to nightmare status,” she said.
She was a victim in her own home and was scared of her own husband.
“It wasn’t until we had been in the physical altercation and he had broken my jaw, it was very noticeable to people outside of our marriage and they started to ask questions, that I finally found the courage to leave. I needed somebody else to confirm, like, this is crazy. This is not okay,” she said.
She said she never called the police during their marriage and during the abuse.
“I didn’t feel like I even had the option to, for some reason, and I know now that’s a normal feeling,” she said.
But even after she left, she said the abuse continued because she had to co-parent with her ex-husband.
“I just kept thinking he was this awful, abusive, monstrous husband, But that doesn't mean he's a bad father, maybe we can still co-parent, and unfortunately, we were leaving his house near the door and he choked me right in front of the kids,” said Patzell.
She finally filed a report but said it didn’t do much.
“He was able to get his domestic violence charge pled down to disorderly conduct and paid a $50 fine and walked out of the courtroom. I couldn't get anything really substantial to stick,” she said. “I knew it was going to take something horrific to happen before the courts would really notice and try to protect us.”
In 2018 something horrible did happen: her ex was sentenced to 20 years in prison at Marion Correctional Institution convicted of rape, felonious assault, domestic violence, and kidnapping of another woman.
“I didn't start publicly sharing my story until my ex-husband was in prison because if I talked too much, my kids would suffer,” she said.
But over time, she started talking more and then turned to social media.
“When I share on social media, it's a face, it's a face that they can see and they can hear, and it's not just a stranger on the other end of a telephone and they can look back on my social media and look at my story and see what we've lived through and where we are now and feel some kind of connection like they're not alone.”
She now has more than 40,000 Facebook followers and uses it as a safe space for people to hear her story, find resources and connect.
Three years ago, she started her own organization dedicated to helping domestic violence victims and turning them into survivors, it’s called ‘I choose Hope.’
“I learned a lot. I saw a lot of maybe holes or gaps in the system,” she said. “We focus on helping domestic violence victims and their families and emergency relocation situations if they can’t get into a shelter or a shelter isn’t the right.”
Next month, her organization is hosting an event for people to learn how to turn their pain into power, click here to learn more.