WASHINGTON, D.C./ DENVER, COLORADO (WUSA/KUSA) -- A young woman who made the serious mistake of sexting as a teenager gave 9 Wants to Know rare insight into the trend police, schools and prosecutors have been trying to curb.
"I never thought they would get out," the unidentified woman said of the sexting photos she sent to her boyfriend at the time. "I never thought anyone would see them."
She spoke to 9 Wants to Know with the intent of preventing teens from making the same mistake. She said her bitter ex-boyfriend shared her nude photos with students several years ago when she was a high school student.
The photos caused deep shame and embarrassment and destroyed her social life at school. Depression led to suicide attempts.
"I tried cutting myself. I tried [strangling] myself," she said. "I thought that was the easiest and best way for me to get away from everything. I never went to sporting events. I missed my junior and senior prom because I didn't want to be around everybody."
A recent study by the University of Texas published in July found 28 percent of teens have texted a nude photo of themselves
"We do think it is prevalent behavior and on top of that, we do think it's a pretty good indicator of sexual behavior," said Dr. Jeff Temple who conducted the study out the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas.
The study also found around 60 percent of teens have been asked to send a nude photo.
"They ask for a face shot, and the next question would be, 'Could I have a full body shot?' " one teen said while describing how she was pressured into sending a photo.
9NEWS spent days analyzing sexting numbers from prosecutors, police and school officials. Prince George's County handled three cases over the last two years. In Loudoun County there were 5. And in Montgomery County police tell us they sometimes handle three a month. One of the most well known cases was at Pyle Middle School in Bethesda in April 2010. At the time police said 7th and 8th grade boys were caught selling nude photos of female students for $3 to $18.
Other counties, and District officials, say either they don't keep track of sexting or have no data.
Prosecutors and police tell 9 Wants to Know most sexting cases never go to court. Young suspects routinely avoid criminal charges after taking educational diversion classes.
As for the young woman we first told you about, who sexted out a nude picture of herself to a then-boyfriend, she wants young people to remember the consequences of sexting can't be deleted. She lives with permanent regret. "Once a picture is out there, it's always out there."