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Heal Well and Live Free

Author, Healing Well and Living Free from An Abusive Relationship, Revell 2018

Doctorate, Psychology, Southern California Seminary

Marriage and Family Therapist

Certified Domestic Violence Counselor

Nationally Certified Counselor

Has been in private practice for 20 years

Sought-after speaker on domestic abuse and how to heal well from the trauma it causes

Related Topics

Dr. Ramona met Ben as a teen in California while her father checked out job opportunities.  When her dad announced to the family they were moving to California, Dr. Ramona was excited to see Ben again.  They dated for several years -- most of it was long-distance because Ben joined the military.  Though she sensed red flags in their relationship, starry-eyed Dr. Ramona still married Ben at the age of 19.  Three years after they were married, Dr. Ramona says the physical abuse started. They tried couple’s counseling, but Ben would not stay committed.  They even tried working with their pastor.  Dr. Ramona explains as is typical in these relationships she did not disclose the dark secret. “I wasn’t open with our pastor about what was happening,” she says.  Then one day she went in with dark sunglasses on to cover a black eye.  Dr. Ramona minimized Ben’s behavior because the pastor said he was going to call the police, But Ben told her, “If anyone ever calls the police, someone will be dead!” Dr. Ramona never went back to counseling with that pastor.  One day, Dr. Ramona’s mother was visiting and had taken the children to the pool.  While she was gone, Ben destroyed the home office in a fit of rage.  The following day, Dr. Ramona dropped her mom off at the airport, and then too scared to return home, she drove to another state with her children, hoping Ben would cool off. “I was so confused but eventually went back home,” she says. “I wanted to believe his promises that he would change.”

Because she comes from a family of “no divorce,” and also because of her confusion surrounding divorce and her faith, she held onto to her marriage for nearly 20 years.  The reality that the marriage was over came to a crescendo when Dr. Ramona insisted that Ben get counseling to address his abusiveness.  Instead of agreeing to go to a batter’s intervention program, Ben chose to retaliate by filing for divorce.  “I turned over every rock doing everything I possibly could to save the marriage,” she says.  One night, Ben in a rage chased Dr. Ramona up the stairs.  She turned to him and said, “I have run from you for the last time.”  With her teenage son present, Dr. Ramona slapped Ben across the face.  “Leaving Ben was the right thing to do,” she says.  “Hitting him that night was not.  Eventually, I forgave Ben, but knowing my precious son watched this take place is still a deep ache I carry.”

“Forgiveness is not a straight line between two points,” says Dr. Ramona.  “It is a significant part of the healing well process.”  She explains that forgiveness is not a must do, but something we get to do.  Making the decision to forgive is a personal choice and because of this, Dr. Ramona says that it’s no one’s place to tell a victim of domestic violence when he or she should forgive.  “I have been able to write about the steps to healing well from domestic violence because I have lived the steps, each painful one,” says Dr. Ramona.  She actually stepped out of private practice for several years to go to counseling and work on her own healing well process.  As she counsels women who have endured abuse, Dr. Ramona, who gave her heart to the Lord at 17, says she hears the same thing: How can I possibly forgive myself?  She says it was easier to forgive her abuser than it was to forgive herself.  “Forgiveness is a one-time decision, but it is also a process we walk through,” she says.  

  1. Forgiveness is freeing:  Holding on to unforgiveness only keeps you bound to the person who inflicted the pain.
  2. Forgiveness is healing:  Pain is an apparent part of the journey towards healing, but she says the pain subsides in direct proportion to the healing taking place inside
  3. Forgiveness is loving yourself:  Many victims of domestic violence do not have a healthy love for themselves or the experience of abuse has eroded it away.  The freedom you receive from healing well is a direct result of learning to have a healthier love for yourself.

When Dr. Ramona was ready, she started an online profile on eHarmony (at the encouragement of her brother who met his wife on eHarmony).  She wrote on the bottom of her profile: If you’ve ever abused or cheated on your wife or girlfriend, please don’t contact me.  Later Dr. Ramona spent time reading the story of Joseph in the Bible.  “I wanted a true gentleman who loved God, loved himself and would love me as I deserved,” she says.  “I was ready to meet my Joseph.”  When she got a response from Tim, he wrote in response to the note on her profile: I have done neither nor will I ever.  Dr. Ramona decided to go on a date with him.  A year and a half later, Tim was in the kitchen and said to her in his worst Italian accent, Just call me Giuseppe!  Giuseppe is Italian for Joseph!  They were married two years later.

One in three women experience domestic violence globally; one in four women and one in seven men experience domestic violence in the US.  Dr. Ramona did her dissertation on domestic violence in faith-based relationships.  “The prevalence rates of domestic violence are similar in and outside the church,” she says.  She credits her understanding of God’s love for her while walking each of the steps for healing well from the trauma domestic violence caused in her life.  “I am an overcomer by God’s grace, His unconditional love and my commitment to learning, growing and healing well,” she says. “Healing well is not for a select few.  It is for anyone who pursues it and stays to committed to themselves.”

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