AUSTIN (KXAN) — Hailey Solis, now in her 20s, endured months of dating violence when she was in 8th grade.

“There was this boy who kept asking me out. I said no many times,” she said. “A few of those times, he took it lightly and he brushed it off. But then he would start verbally abusing, saying that no one would love me except for him. After a few other times, that’s when it started to get physical.”

As this happened, Solis suffered in silence.

“I was so afraid of him and what he would do that I did not want to tell anybody, I was just going to allow it to go on,” she said.

Then one day, her friends saw marks on her face and told a school resource officer.

“He ended up getting arrested,” Solis said of her abuser. “We did go to court and we did end up winning, thankfully.”

KXAN connected with Hailey through the Texas Advocacy Project, which provides free legal services to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking throughout the state.

“Get help. Get help as fast as you can,” said Solis.

Hailey and Christian
Hailey Solis, now in a loving relationship, hopes others in her position seek help.

Years after her abuse, she’s now in a loving relationship with her boyfriend Christian – who said his favorite things about her are her interests and her personality.

“With Christian, he did not have to force me to care for him, he did not have to force me to love him,” she said. “Being in a loving relationship means being gentle with your partner.”

Warning signs and resources

According to Domestic Violence Services, Inc., roughly 1.5 million high school students in the U.S. have gone through something similar to Solis, and one in three young people will be in an abusive or unhealthy relationship. Additionally, one in three teens who experience dating violence don’t report it.

Heather Bellino, CEO of the Texas Advocacy Project, said teens often have difficulty coming forward about dating violence – whether it is physical or emotional – so it helps to have as many people as possible understand the warning signs.

“Things like… ‘If you loved me, you’d skip school and hang out with me. If you loved me, you’d let me take your car. If you loved me, you’d give me all of your passwords for social media,” she said. “‘If you loved me,’ looks really bad and really dangerous to somebody on the outside, but on the inside it looks like ‘If I loved them.”

Warning signs also exist for the person getting abused, Bellino said. Those include things like lashing out, becoming withdrawn.

Teens experiencing abuse – or their friends or family – can get help through the Texas Advocacy Project or local law enforcement.

“If a teenager finds them self in an abusive situation, we want them to know that we are here,” said Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez. “We protect their identity, we show them that we care.”

Teens helping teens

This month, a group of around 100 teens from across Texas met at the Capitol for training warning signs of and resources for teen dating violence situations.

“I’ve had friends in dangerous situations, and I wanted to be prepared going into my teenage years myself,” said Beck Buskirk, one of the ambassadors.

You can hear more from him and his peers in the video below.

“This is so they can be that light in their sphere of influence,” said Bellino.

Several ambassadors brought up dating violence concerns stemming from social media influence.

“It’s really common to see abuse and even unhealthy relationships romanticized into something that’s normal,” said ambassador Finnley Willms.

“I think being controlling and stalking on social media is a big one,” added Ingrid Smith, a fellow ambassador. “I think a lot of times we watch movies and TV shows and see unhealthy relationships, and it’s kind of been normalized.”

TCSO social media post
The Travis County Sheriff’s Office launched a social media campaign aimed at raising awareness about teen dating violence.

The Travis County Sheriff’s Office is trying to break through that negative social media messaging with its #tcsoLOVEIS campaign.

“We’ve got to better communicate to get their attention,” Sheriff Hernandez said.

Anyone who needs help can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline any time at 800-799-7233.