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ACCESS program works with teens to decrease dating violence


DEARBORN, Mich.— It’s a problem that affects 20 percent of teenage girls. And yet many don’t know that help is just a phone call away. Educating teens to understand and recognize the dangers of dating violence is a goal of the ACCESS Child and Adolescent Health Center (CAHC).

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and ACCESS is celebrating by giving students in Dearborn Public Schools tools to recognize warning signs through curriculum-based workshops.

“The Arab American community is still very conservative when it comes to dating, and we have to be sensitive to the topic where we can still present the information and make our youth aware of dating violence without offending the culture of the community,” said Layla Elabed, Adolescent Health Center assistant. “We know that our youth are dating and we do see a percentage of dating violence among teens, but at the CAHC we incorporate this information by defining a healthy relationship and discussing it."

Discussion topics include relationship building among peers, family, teachers and significant others, as well as a teen’s relationship with their community as a whole, she said.

According to the U.S. Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women, dating violence can happen to anyone at any time; however, young victims face different obstacles than older, adult victims. Teen dating violence often increases the risk of substance abuse, sexual activity, pregnancy and suicide, especially for female victims. Despite public perceptions, harmful issues associated with teen dating do not have to include physical contact or assault, Elabed said.

“When you talk about teen dating violence, it’s not always physical. We see a lot of emotional abuse more than anything. That is a warning sign of possible physical violence in the future," she said.

To help educate teens, the Child and Adolescent Health Center will host its annual “Respect Works!” workshop on Friday, Feb. 28 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Participants will review short films and engage in a discussion to identify warning signs of unhealthy relationships and learn how to make positive decisions.

“There’s a huge stigma placed on Arab American teens. They don’t want to say they are dating out of fear of their families or judgment from the community,” Elabed said. “Our message is that it’s not okay to stay in an abusive relationship—whether it’s among friends or family—while being sensitive to the needs of the Arab American community.”

For more information about Child and Adolescent Health Center services, please call 313-216-2229.

For 43 years, ACCESS has provided more than 100 powerful programs that enhance Arab American communities in metro Detroit and across the United States. The ACCESS Annual Dinner will take place on Saturday, April 12 at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center. The dinner celebrates ACCESS’ mission of assisting, improving and empowering the community. It is the largest Arab American event of its type in the United States and attracts more than 1,700 guests each year, including local, state and national dignitaries. Sponsorship packages are available.

For more information about sponsorships, please contact Rose Srour at 313.842.4749. Individual tickets are $100 and can be purchased online at


Grounded in the Arab-American tradition of hospitality, ACCESS has a 43-year history of providing social, health, education and legal services in greater Detroit to empower people to lead healthy, informed and productive lives. Today, ACCESS extends that mission to a national platform through advocacy, arts, culture and philanthropy. Visit us online at