Sexting, or sending sexual text messages to friends, is a surprisingly common phenomenon among the youth. As of 2009, about 20% of teens admitted to “sexting,” according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

Sexting: One 14 Year Old Girls Nightmarish Story of Sending a Naked Pic to Her Boyfriend

In the New York Times, there’s a sad and shocking story of how sexting altered one young girl’s life. She was only in eighth grade when it happened:

One day last winter Margarite posed naked before her bathroom mirror, held up her cellphone and took a picture. Then she sent the full-length frontal photo to Isaiah, her new boyfriend.

The couple broke up not too long after that. Then, Margarite’s ex-boyfriend forwarded her naked picture on to another girl. That girl forwarded the picture on to everyone in her cellphone contact list. Those people forwarded the picture on to more phones so that in less than 24 hours, hundreds–maybe even thousands–of people had seen a naked picture of Margarite:

They broke up soon after. A few weeks later, Isaiah forwarded the photo to another eighth-grade girl, once a friend of Margarite’s. Around 11 o’clock at night, that girl slapped a text message on it.

“Ho Alert!” she typed. “If you think this girl is a whore, then text this to all your friends.” Then she clicked open the long list of contacts on her phone and pressed “send.”

In less than 24 hours, the effect was as if Margarite, 14, had sauntered naked down the hallways of the four middle schools in this racially and economically diverse suburb of the state capital, Olympia. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of students had received her photo and forwarded it.

In short order, students would be handcuffed and humiliated, parents mortified and lessons learned at a harsh cost. Only then would the community try to turn the fiasco into an opportunity to educate.

Though sexting is not illegal, if the senders and/or receivers of the text involve minors, child pornography laws could kick in. So in this case, the police eventually did end up getting involved. On the drive to school–where the police were waiting to question Margarite–she “sobbed uncontrollably, feeling betrayed and degraded.”

“When I opened my phone I was scared,” one of Margarite’s peers at school said. “I knew who the girl in the picture was. It’s hard to unsee something.”

Read the whole story here.