Teen ambassadors of HOPE raise money for survivors of domestic violence

Research shows that each year an estimated $1.5 million high school students in the U.S. suffer physical abuse from a partner they're dating.

Hunter Jones knows all too well about the struggles of teen dating.

"I've seen screaming at each other, sad to see it. I've seen it in the hallways normally.  A girl might have found out that a guy cheated on her, and he will grab her and just yell at her,” said Hunter.  

For the past five years he's been working to make a difference in his high school.

On Sunday Hunter along with 63 students from across Texas were honored by the 'Texas Advocacy Project' for their work in the community.

“So I joined this to help those people, so they know they don't have to reach out and talk to someone they might not know at school they can come privately and talk with professionals,” said Hunter. 
The non-profit provides legal services and support to victims of domestic and sexual assault.

The 'Teen Ambassadors of HOPE' program gives young people the opportunity to spread awareness within high schools about the dangers of teen dating violence.
“It’s kind of hard to realize they’re in a toxic relationship or that there in an abusive relationship. It’s hard for them to want to get help,” said Mason Watters, Teen Ambassadors of HOPE.

While educating, students on how to have a healthy relationship.

Through the program, ambassadors are trained on how to spot the warning signs of a violent relationship.

"Some little things that may not be that big like oh’ no I want to go here oh’ no you can’t do that you can’t go out tonight you can’t hang out with that friend anymore you can’t be that anymore. Those things can seem normal or not bad, but they can escalate,” said Mason.

Organizers with Texas Advocacy Project say 2/3 of teens who experience dating violence often tell no one about the abuse.

"Just not something we talk about historically although in the past ten years we’ve gotten better as a society to say you know what this is not acceptable behavior I’m going to stand up and support a survivor and I’m going to believe a survivor,” said Heather Bellino, Texas Advocacy Project executive director.

Experts say teen victims are at a higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and further domestic violence.

Jones says if you suspect abuse is going on report it. 

More than $26,000 was raised by the teen ambassadors.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence you can contact the number on the screen at 1-800-374-HOPE.