As soon as she saw her ex and two of his friends pointing and laughing at her, Ally knew something was wrong. What happened next was a nightmare the New Jersey teen never imagined when she texted her former boyfriend a naked photo.
Ally tells her story in "Sexting in America: When Privates Go Public," a 30-minute special airing Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on MTV, in which we take a closer look at the dangers of sexting and the serious repercussions for the people who send and receive naked pictures of peers on their mobile phones and other devices.
In the special, Ally walks by the spot at her school where her ex-boyfriend and his friend stood "pointing and laughing" at her, triggering the realization that the naked picture she sent him at his request had leaked out. Ally had broken up with her boyfriend during her sophomore year at Hamburg, New Jersey's Wallkill Valley Regional High School, and a month later, he told her he would get back together with her if she sent him a naked photo.
"It was one picture, and he sent it out to everybody in his address book," the now-20-year-old told MTV News. "We were broken up, and I guess he did it to make himself seem cool. I never thought anybody else would see it. ... It was an impulsive thing that I did."
Though her face was not in the photo, Ally said word about who the mystery subject was quickly raced around the school. "You wouldn't think that something could spread that far, that fast," said Kacie, one of Ally's good friends.
After first denying it was her to the school's vice principal, as well as her parents, Ally finally 'fessed up, and her devastated mom's first reaction was that the family should leave town. Because there was no physical harm, though, the vice principal said there was nothing he could do about the incident unless other students began to threaten violence against her.
Ally's story highlights the fact that nearly 1 in 5 sext recipients (17 percent) report that they have passed the images along to someone else, with more than half saying that they just assumed others would want to see them (52 percent), followed by a desire to show off (35 percent) and boredom (26 percent).
Images taken of someone under the age of 18 can constitute child pornography, according to Parry Aftab, an Internet privacy and security lawyer. "If you take a picture, you can be accused of producing child pornography. If you send it to somebody, you can be accused of distributing child pornography. And if you keep a picture, you can be accused of possessing child pornography," Aftab explained. "Anywhere along this chain of transmission of the images, you can be charged as a registered sex offender."
Ally said after four years, she's definitely over the incident, which she feels has made her a stronger person. "But I think I have to tell my story to other girls, because if I can help one person avoid this, I would definitely want to."
If you or someone you know is a victim of digital abuse, get help now. Experts believe education and dialogue are key to identifying and stopping the spread of digital abuse. Head to AThinLine.org to find ways you can increase national awareness about this issue and be a part of the solution.
The MTV News special "Sexting in America: When Privates Go Public," premieres Sunday, February 14, at 9 p.m. ET/PT.