Weddings // July 21, 2014

Two months ago, my husband I were married in a small ceremony with friends and family on a ranch by the Carson river in Nevada. It was a balmy day filled with love, laughter and mishaps. I got stranded in a strip mall less than an hour before the ceremony (long story), one of the groomsmen forgot to pick up his tux, and the officiant came down with the flu. Despite these things we had a lovely day, because my husband and I (and everyone helping us) were prepared for things to go wrong and so took things in stride when they did.

“Savor the moment.” That’s a great way to remind ourselves to take in every detail of a special moment, trip, or occasion and file it away in our memory for future enjoyment. But what about those details that you want to forget. That you have to forget, so that the story about your trip to Ecuador is “Remember that time we stood at the equator?” instead of “Remember that time we almost froze to death in the Andean Mountains?” It’s choosing, in the moment, to asses the situation, stay positive and plan to salvage the moment. Then you can have an experience that can be savored over and over again. My new husband and I have had enough whacky moments to get good at this. We’ve also learned some great lessons and established patterns for how to make the most of an unexpected trial. Here’s how we do it.

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Stay Positive and Invent a Motto

In fact, it was looking back on another near disaster in our recent past as a couple that encouraged us to keep positive on our wedding day. It was December, 2012 in Ecuador and we had had a series of unfortunate events: a harrowing bus ride through the Andean mountains; being left on the side of the road at 3:30 AM in the middle of said mountain range; crazy guide; faulty gear; altitude sickness... and the list goes on. We took lemons (scary mountain trip) and made lemonade (impromptu trip to El Mitad Del Mundo, or “Middle of the World,” in Quito). We decided to remain positive about all the mishaps and even gave them a cutesy name “Mitad Del Mundo,” a motto to remind us to laugh in the face of trials.

Assess the Damages

While my husband, Mathias, and I were prepared to be positive during our big day, we did not prepare for all that would go wrong with our honeymoon immediately after.

My husband planned a romantic beachside getaway for us in what was advertised as a “charming” and “quaint, historical” inn. After an eight hour drive (twice as long as we’d planned for thanks to faulty navigation system) we arrive to a quirky, small, old inn miles away from the shoreline of Daytona Beach Florida. Since it was the middle of the night, we ignored the fact that it didn’t look like the post card. The friendly staff escorted us to our room and I immediately went into my habit of inspecting our room for cleanliness and proper accommodations. To my horror, I found broken glass behind the curtains, dirty towels hung in the bathroom, filthy dishes under the bed and a bottle of lube spilling out of the night stand... This was definitely the honeymoon suite, and someone had a good time in it. When we informed the staff that our suite looked like a scene out of The Hangover, we were kindly escorted to a larger suite with an ocean view. The ocean view room came with friends: cockroaches, mosquitoes and termites (oh, my!). It was too late to go anywhere else, so we built a fortress on the bed and stood watch against creepy intruders until dawn.

Next, we assessed our losses. Romantic mood: dampened. One night’s pay at crappy inn: lost. Time: one day of our special getaway gone. We were outraged by our experience until we reminded ourselves that we’ve had worse vacation moments and started planning to make our honeymoon a trip worth remembering. In the end, we still had each other and that meant things weren’t as bad as they seemed.

Move to Plan B...or C

During our honeymoon experience, we kept positive and realized the situation could be salvaged. We didn’t want to spend the rest of our vacation at the infested inn, so we worked on plan B: Disneyworld! Until we realized that did not work for our budget or timeline… on to plan C! We quickly mapped a route to the nearest beach, Daytona, and planned to just enjoy the time with each other instead of trying to make the trip perfect. The result was, for us, near perfect. We spent one day sleeping in, eating pancakes and being beach bums. We learned to paddle board with a Hawaiian native who showed us how to go with the flow of the waves; and we enjoyed the local nature and vegan food scene. Finally, we laughed at how everything that could go wrong with our plans did. We had fun anyway.

As we age and start a family there are likely to be dozens of stories that start with “remember that time when...” We knew that this would be a story that we’d look back on and laugh at, but what turned our dud into delight was our determination to laugh now. Who cares that our bridal party wore mismatched outfits. Everyone was beautiful and I think that’s a trend now. Sure, it looked like the set of the Hangover in our honeymoon suite, but so what! At least somebody had a good time in that termite infested chateau that shall remain nameless. We managed to salvage the memories of our first landmark moments as a married couple: time spent with dearest love ones, priceless. Here’s hoping that there are many more to come.

Published in Weddings
Tuesday, 29 April 2014 20:09

30 Days of Made | Day 29: Kate's Club

30 Days of Made // April 29, 2014

This article was part of our series "30 Days of Made: Giving Back." In an effort to create social change, each day we will highlight one charity or non-profit organization, and provide information on how you can support them by giving back. Click here to read more!

About a year ago, a close friend invited me to spend Saturday morning volunteering with her at Kate's Club. When she told me about the organization, I was hesitant about working with grieving children. However, I was impressed with the upbeat, energetic atmosphere of the clubhouse. The issue of childhood grief resonates with me because I lost my father at the age of seven and can empathize with children in this situation. I understand the desire to enjoy being a kid and relate to peers, but feeling a little different and not knowing how to cope with the loss of a parent.                                


    

Kate's Club Video from Rachel Ezzo on Vimeo.


Kate's Club is an Atlanta based non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging and supporting children who are coping with the death of a parent or sibling. Kate Atwood, the founder of the organization, lost her mother to cancer at the age of 12. Kate's desire to provide a safe place for grieving children to play and express their feelings about the death of their loved ones inspired her to start Kate's Club in 2003. The program consists of a clubhouse where kids can enjoy arts and crafts, interactive games and therapeutic group activities including yoga, art and dance. Club members also participate in quarterly field trips and an annual summer camp.  Kate's Club started with Kate, six kids and their families in 2003. Today, the organization has served more than 500 children and their families with the support of a well trained staff, licensed counselors and 100 volunteers.

Support Kate’s Club

Volunteering with Kate's Club was such a great experience. I really enjoy helping children boost their confidence and have fun. To learn more about Kate's Club and how you can support this unique organization, please visit katesclub.org. Or use the buttons below!

Published in Current

30 Days of Made // April 3, 2014

This article was part of our series "30 Days of Made: Giving Back." In an effort to create social change, each day we will highlight one charity or non-profit organization, and provide information on how you can support them by giving back. Click here to read more!

Why do I love “Good Sam?” So many reasons, I don’t even know where to start! The Good Samaritan Health Center is a healthcare home dedicated to providing affordable comprehensive medical, dental, mental health and health education services for underserved individuals and families in Atlanta. It was formed in 1998 after Dr. Bill Warren left his private pediatric practice in Sandy Springs to fulfill a calling; he wanted to serve those in Atlanta without access to healthcare or insurance.

The Center started off with a staff of eight and a handful of volunteers in downtown Atlanta. Today, a full-time staff of 40 and 400 volunteers work together to provide high quality medical care to individuals and families in Atlanta that could not otherwise afford it. In 2013, The Good Samaritan Health Center provided 28,000 patient visits for primary healthcare services, health education, and community outreach through its urban farm and special days of service.


Working as the Health Education Coordinator for Good Sam, I get to witness the direct impact that The Center makes on people’s lives every day. I coordinate our health education programs including Diabetes Management, Kidney Smart, Healthy Cooking/Nutrition and Environmental Education. There isn’t a day that goes by without a patient personally thanking one of our staff or volunteers for serving them with dignity and respect--regardless of income, religion or ethnicity. Restoring the smile of a woman searching for a new job, watching a young woman regain her health and confidence after a 100lb weight loss, or providing a prosthetic leg to a homeless amputee: these are just a few of the experiences I’ve had that make Good Sam an exciting place to serve. This isn’t some sterile medical center, it’s a place where lives are changed and communities grow.



The project that has me the most excited right now is The Center’s growing urban farm. Located in the heart of the city, the urban farm is one acre of organic crops including kale, tomatoes, root vegetables, berries and fruit trees available to both patients of The Center and members of the community. The Center is located on Donald Lee Hollowell Pkwy in the highly underserved Bankhead neighborhood. Low food security and few grocery stores within walking distance make access to fresh, healthy produce a challenge for the community. Produce from the farm will provide a valuable resource to both community members and patients who need healthy food. The urban farm is just the latest way that The Good Samaritan Health Center is working to provide people in need with the resources necessary to thrive.

How YOU can get involved!

The Good Samaritan Health Center is a non-profit organization that operates solely on donations. Gifts will go to support healthcare, health education and outreach like our food prescription program. The food prescription program will allow doctors and nurse practitioners to write a prescription for fresh produce from the farm to patients who are in need. There are many chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity that can be managed with the help of a healthy diet. The food prescription program will allow healthcare providers to treat these issues with healthy food.

If you love the mission of The Center and want to donate a monetary gift, then visit the website and give online.  The Good Samaritan Health Center can also use your donation of unexpired, unopened medications, newborn infant supplies, travel-size hygiene products, family first aid kit items and certain healthcare supplies. For more information please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

You can also use the buttons below to show your support! Or tweet at them at @atlantagoodsam!


Published in Current
Thursday, 20 March 2014 18:37

Weddings | Planning For Your Marriage

Weddings // March 24, 2014

There are less than three months until my wedding and I just found my dress and I still have not sent out save the dates, or wedding invitations. Like many brides, I have become overwhelmed in the swirl of dress shopping, fine tuning the guest list, selecting a caterer and finding a D.J. (This is a truncated list, of course.) When I feel inadequate to make decisions on flowers, color schemes and cake decorations, I find confidence in knowing that I’m at least taking the right steps to ensure that Mathias (my fiancé) and I will still have a healthy relationship after the wedding.

So, while I envy the women who seem to be the perfect wedding planners, I’ve tasked myself with being a diligent marriage planner. I won’t attempt to offer expert relationship advice, or claim to know the keys to having a perfect anything, let alone a perfect marriage. However, I do know that being successful at anything requires a plan. Here are the tactics I’m using to make sure that Mathias and I get a healthy start to our marriage.

Make a Life Plan

When Mathias and I got engaged our first priority was mapping out our lives together. Questions like, which city will we settle down in? How many children will we have? Should I go to graduate school? All came up as we focused on planning our future. A good place to start with this planning process is goal setting. Everything starts to come together when you ask yourself what you really want and work toward that. For example, if what you really want is to be a stay at home mom in five years, then that might impact your decision to pay for graduate school right now.

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Create a Budget

The time to start planning your financial future with your partner is now. Both parties need to lay out what they bring to the table in terms of assets and debt. Just like life planning, it’s important to set goals. Are you the couple who wants to go on a big vacation every year, or is your biggest priority saving for a down payment on a house? Is eliminating student loan debt or investing one of your goals? Determine where you want to be financially and it will become easier to create a plan on how to get there together.

Seek Wise Counsel

I like to think of pre-marital counseling as preventative maintenance for your relationship. You can pinpoint trouble areas that currently exist, develop a strategy for dealing with future pitfalls and cultivate deeper intimacy with your partner. There are several options for counseling, so explore what works for you. It could be seeking advice from an older couple who you respect, group sessions with a religious guidance counselor, or private sessions with a professional counselor. Mathias and I are currently taking six sessions with a professional counselor who is helping us prepare for the three issues that cause the most conflict in marriage: sex, money and in-laws.

Learning how to fight fair, financial planning and deciding whose family to spend Christmas with may not seem romantic. However, these things are essential to having a healthy relationship. The details of wedding planning are important and I'll get the invitations out, hire the caterer and try to remember to smile and breathe through the ceremony. More important than the wedding is what will happen after we say “I do,” cut the cake and ride off into the sunset. I’m looking forward to enjoying the rest of my life committed to Mathias and happy to know that we’ve got a plan.

Published in Weddings
Friday, 09 August 2013 03:33

Health | Birth Control 101

Health // August 12, 2013

Parenthood is the most rewarding job of them all. It’s something that most women look forward to their whole lives. However, more than half of all births to unmarried, 20-something women are unintentional according to the Knot Yet Report. Pregnancy and childrearing are things that you want to be completely ready for. And if you aren’t ready? No worries, MWM has got you covered. We’ve provided a rundown of the variety of options to choose from when it comes to having sex without babies.

Intrauterine Contraception

Intrauterine contraception is a very effective method of contraception with a less than one percent fail rate. This means that for every 100 women using the device .2% of those using copper IUD and .8% of those using the Levonorgestrel IUD will become pregnant. This is a great method for those with a busy schedule, because there is nothing to remember once it is inserted.

Copper T intrauterine device (IUD) —This IUD is a small device that is shaped in the form of a “T.” Your doctor places it inside the uterus to prevent pregnancy. It can stay in your uterus for up to 10 years.

Levonorgestrel intrauterine system (LNG IUD) —The LNG IUD is a small T-shaped device like the Copper T IUD. It is placed inside the uterus by a doctor. It releases a small amount of progestin each day to keep you from getting pregnant. The LNG IUD stays in your uterus for up to five years.

Hormonal Methods

Implant—The implant is a single, thin rod that is inserted under the skin of a woman’s upper arm. The rod contains a progestin that is released into the body for three years.

Pro: This highly effective method will last you  awhile, so you won’t need to constantly think about birth control.

Con: There are some risks, however, including abnormal vaginal bleeding, acne and weight gain.

Injection or the "shot"—The shot is an injection of the hormone progestin in the buttocks or arm every three months.

Pros: The  shot is a good option for women who want a highly effective method of contraception but don't want (or can't use) an IUD or implant, can't take estrogen, or have trouble remembering to take the pill.

Cons: You’ll need to get repeat injections and remember to  get them on time in order for this method to be effective. Also, this is not a good option for women who would like to become pregnant within a year because it takes time for fertility to come back once you stop taking the shot.

Combined oral contraceptives—Also called “the pill,” combined oral contraceptives contain the hormones estrogen and progestin. This form of contraceptive is prescribed by a doctor and taken at the same time each day.

Pros: No shots, or implants required, just pop a pill. Good option for those who don’t like needles or who might want to plan a family in the near future.

Cons: This contraceptive method takes the most diligence because you must take it daily in order for it to be effective. The possibility of forgetting increases the chance of getting pregnant.

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Progestin only pill—Unlike the combined pill, the progestin-only pill (sometimes called the mini-pill) only has one hormone, progestin, instead of both estrogen and progestin. It is prescribed by a doctor.

Pros:  This may be a good option for women who can’t take estrogen.

Cons: Like the combined pill, it’s important to remember to take the progestin pill daily in order for it to be effective. 

Patch—This skin patch is worn on the lower abdomen, buttocks, or upper body (but not on the breasts). This method is prescribed by a doctor. It releases hormones progestin and estrogen into the bloodstream. You put on a new patch once a week for three weeks. During the fourth week, you do not wear a patch, so you can have a menstrual period.

Pros: Your fertility returns right after you stop using this method. There’s also the added benefit that it can help clear up your acne.

Cons: Bleeding between periods, nausea and vomiting are common side effects.

Hormonal vaginal contraceptive ring—The ring releases the hormones progestin and estrogen. You place the ring inside your vagina. You wear the ring for three weeks, take it out for the week you have your period, and then put in a new ring.

Pros: Like the patch, fertility returns quickly when you stop using the ring and it may also help lighten your period.

Cons: Some bleeding and possible infection are some common side effects of the ring.

Abstinence

Why are we talking about abstinence in an article about birth control? Because not having sex is the only "foolproof" way to prevent the natural consequences of getting it on. All of the methods listed above are great for my sexually active sisters out there. But if you’re in a relationship and you have not taken it there yet, then abstinence is a great way to prevent unplanned pregnancy, STD’s and potentially unhealthy relationships.

With birth control it’s important to find the right fit that works with your body’s chemistry and your busy lifestyle. You can visit the CDC to learn more about the effectiveness of the different options or locate a women’s clinic near you.

Sources: CDC, Planned Parenthood, Knot Yet




Published in Health
Monday, 20 May 2013 07:23

Fitness | Get Bikini Ready Fast

Fitness // May 20, 2013

Ladies: Memorial Day is around the corner and if your commitment to staying in shape has fallen by the wayside, then it’s time to hit the gym and get bikini ready. These simple, tried and true exercises will help tone your abs, butt and total body so that you can wear your swimsuit with confidence this summer.

Running: We were born to run, Ladies! This simple, yet heart-pumping exercise will tone your legs and glutes and get your cardiovascular system working.

How to: You already know what to do. Put on a good sports-bra, lace up your kicks (invest in some good ones) and put one foot in front of the other. 

Plank Rows with Leg Raise: This one works your back, core, biceps and glutes. It’s very intense, but you WILL see results.

How to: Place a pair of 5 pound dumbbells shoulder-width apart on a yoga mat. Get in plank position with your hands on the dumbbells. (A) In one motion, lift the right dumbbell until your elbow passes your torso and raise your left leg to hip height. (B) Lower and repeat with the opposite arm and leg to complete one rep.  Do two sets of 10 reps.

Jump Squats: Tone your quads for extra confidence in thigh bearing swimsuits this summer.

How to: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms at sides. (A) Start by doing a regular squat and then jump up as high as you can when you rise up reaching for the ceiling. (B) When you land, lower back into the squat position to complete one rep. Do two sets of 10 reps.

Superman: Strengthen and tone your back, shoulders, glutes and hips.

How to: Lie on your stomach on a mat or the floor with your legs outstretched behind you and your toes pointing toward the wall behind you. (A) Reach your arms out overhead with your palms facing the floor. Relax your neck and align your head with your spine. (B) Slowly extend both legs away from your torso until they lift a few inches off the floor. At the same time, lift both arms a few inches off the floor. Keep both legs and arms straight and make sure that your head is aligned with your spine. Hold this position for a few breaths. (C) Gently inhale and lower your legs and arms back to your starting position without any movement in your low back or hips. Do two sets of 10 reps. 

Push-ups: Old-school push-ups strengthen your chest, shoulders and triceps.

How to: Get into push-up position with hands shoulder-width apart on mat or floor. Make sure that your body is in a straight line and do not arch your back. (A) Lower your body down to the mat into plank position keeping your body straight. (B) Push body straight up into starting position. Do two sets of 10 reps.

Two years ago, tired of being overweight, I decided to get healthy and stay in shape for good. A regular fitness routine that includes the exercises outlined above, along with a vegetarian diet helped me lose and keep off 25 pounds. The best way to maintain a healthy and attractive physique is to make it a way of life. We all want to look good in a bikini, but more important is feeling AND looking good for a lifetime. You may be hitting the gym to get ready for swimsuit season, but when the going gets tough remember that this is for your health.


Disclaimer: Please consult your physician before starting a new diet or exercise routine.

Published in Health
Thursday, 04 April 2013 00:22

Lifestyle | Travel Blog: Ecuador

Lifestyle // April 8, 2013 

This winter, I officially became a card carrying adventurer when I traveled to Ecuador for the first time. When my boyfriend, Mathias, invited me to tag along to visit close family friends I jumped at the opportunity to experience this unique South American country. The combination of diverse geography, the remains of the Inca Empire and influence of Spanish-Colonialism make this equatorial nation rich in culture and natural beauty.

Our first stop was the quaint, Spanish colonial city of Cuenca. Nestled in a valley surrounded by the Andes mountains, the dominant features of the city's geography are also the inspiration for its name in Spanish: the four rivers of Cuenca (meaning a basin). These rivers are the Tomebamba (named after the Cañari culture), Yanuncay, Tarqui and Machangara. When we arrived, the friendly people of Cuenca made me feel instantly welcomed. Locals patiently listened to my broken Spanish as  I navigated the narrow streets, made purchases at the open air markets and ordered vegetariano meals at local restaurants.

Tourists from around the world flock to this cultural center, the country's third-largest city and the capital of the Azuay province. Cafes, clothing shops and art galleries are tucked among the weathered cobblestone streets. The main plaza houses both the old cathedral, built in the same year that the city was founded (1557) and the blue-domed Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, built in 1885. Cholas de Cuenca (women of Cuenca) stroll the streets as they deftly weave Panama hats to sell at the central shopping market, Casa de la Mujer.

Upon landing in Cuenca we were greeted with Pase del Niño Viajero (Passing of the Child), a rich cultural tradition that depicts the birth of Christ amid parades of locals dressed in traditional costumes. This colorful event combines Catholic and indigenous traditions and is a three-month-long activity, beginning the first Sunday after Advent and continuing to Carnival in early March.


       Pase del Niño Viajero

After enjoying the art and culture of Cuenca, the next stop was summiting Cotopaxi. Cotopaxi is a majestic, glacier capped mountain rising 19,347 feet above sea level (5,897 meters). We began our adventure by climbing Rumiñahui (a mountain next to Cotopaxi) to adjust to the altitude before the big climb.


       View of Cotopaxi from the base of Rumiñahui

Our journey to “The Middle of the World” led us to the equator (for which Ecuador is named), the imaginary line that divides the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. We straddled the equator, toured the equatorial monument and visited some friendly Llamas that roam the monument park grounds. Next, we headed back to Cuenca to visit the pre-Columbian Inca ruins.





Ingapirca, which means “Inca stone wall,” is a well restored site of Inca ruins located near Cuenca. A fragment of Inca road called the Ingañan remains leads past the highlight of Ingapirca, the Temple of the Sun, also known as El Castillo (The Castle). The Inca Empire’s last remaining sun temple stands on a hill 3,200 meters high with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. It’s fun to imagine the temple as it was, lined with gold to reflect the sun in a way designed to create a religious experience.




Finally, we ended our trip with a relaxing visit to El Cajas National Park. Located 45 minutes outside of Cuenca,  El Cajas is a beautiful, high altitude park with  approximately 270 lakes and ponds,  rare species of bird and animal life, and more beautiful  plants and flowers than I could count.

The Spanish-colonial charm of Cuenca, the wild beauty of the Andes mountains and the vibrant culture of the Ecuadorian people made the trip to the middle of the world one that I’ll never forget.


Published in Travel
Friday, 22 March 2013 01:23

Current | Violence Against Women Act

Current // March 21, 2013

Last month, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), enabling President Obama to sign it into law. The authorization of VAWA will help to protect women from intimate partner violence (IPV) by providing funding for programs that help prosecute sexual assault and domestic abuse cases, as well as assist the victims in dealing with trauma. This achievement provides an opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions about IPV and its impact on women’s health

While the term IPV may not be familiar, media coverage of such violence is everywhere; from the infamous Rihanna and Chris Brown incident, to the reality show “Teen Mom”, and the headline grabbing, real life story of Jodi Arias.

As the communications and outreach coordinator for the Jane Fonda Center’s Start Strong Atlanta initiative, I’m encouraged by the passing of VAWA. Our goal is to end teen dating violence and equip youth with the resources they need to grow into healthy adults. One way in which we do this is by educating teens on how to develop healthy relationships and identify abusive ones. VAWA supports the efforts of many programs like ours that are working to end intimate partner violence.

Physical violence is easy to identify, but it’s not the only form of abuse in intimate relationships. IPV includes a range of abusive behaviors, including sexual violence and emotional and/or psychological abuse. Technology-based abuse is an additional area of concern that intersects with IPV. This type of abuse includes inappropriate online activity, incessant texting and “cyber” stalking.

Recent data proves that IPV is a growing issue among young people. Young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence -- almost triple the national average. The 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that nearly 1 in 10 high school students had experienced physical abuse from their dating partner in the past year.  Additionally, 1 in 3 adolescent girls reported physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner.  Here are some other startling statistics:

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Facts & Figures: What you need to know about IPV*

  • Nearly 1 in 5 women in the U.S. report being raped at some point in their lives. Of those who reported rape, more than 50% were raped by an intimate partner.
  • About 1 in 4 women experience severe physical violence by an intimate partner.
  • One in 6 has experienced stalking. Two thirds of these women reported that the stalking was by a current or previous intimate partner.
  • Nearly half (48.4%) of all women have experienced psychosocial aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • Of those who report IPV, more than one third experienced multiple forms of abuse.


To learn more about how to prevent IPV, please visit Start Strong and Futures Without Violence.

Please share this information with your friends, co-workers and family. Together, we can raise awareness of all forms of IPV and work to prevent it.

*Source: The 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS)

Published in Current