When Ally Pereira was a 16-year-old high school student in Sussex County, she was saddened when her boyfriend suddenly broke up with her.

When he requested a nude picture of her, she complied, thinking she might win him back.

Instead, he sent the topless picture to everyone in their school. Ally became an instant victim of abuse.

Today, an adult Pereira is a national an anti-bullying and sexting awareness advocate.

She is pushing New Jersey to expand mandatory sexual abuse education and awareness programs to help kids understand the consequences of sending nude pictures on their cell phones.

Ally said her initial reaction when she was a student was denial. But the viral attention and bullying left her shattered and she attempted suicide.

“People would call me names in the hallways like 'ho,' 'whore,' 'slut.' They would come to my classrooms, make faces through the windows at me,” she said.

“Boys would always say I would never get another boyfriend. Nobody would want to date the girl that everyone had seen that way.”

She also said girls had threatened to beat her up and her house was vandalized.

“People would put paint cans in my pool and they rolled a tire into my glass front door.”

After that, she went into therapy and eventually she decided to help others avoid the same torment.

Pereira now travels the Garden State and the nation, talking to middle and high school students about the dangers of sexting.

“They don’t realize they could have to register as sex offenders just for sending a picture,” she said.

“Even if a kid under the age of 18 takes a picture of themselves naked and doesn’t send it to anybody, they could still be charged with possession of child pornography.”

She said when kids find out how serious of a situation this can be, “a lot of them are actually scared. A lot don’t understand what being a sex offender is and so they’ll ask me what the repercussions of that are.”

She noted New Jersey has passed a measure to protect teens in many sexting situations from being charged as a sex offender. But prosecutors are still able to pursue this kind of a charge, and sometimes will do so.

Pereira said after she delivers a talk about sexting she will usually get an email from at least one student who tells her “this is what I’m going through, what do you recommend I do? And I’ve actually been approached by kids crying afterwards and saying hearing my story really helped save their lives because they were considering suicide.”

She tells kids if they’re being bullied or teased about a sexting incident, “there is life afterwards and it does get better.

"You have to tell somebody what is going on because you can’t deal with it alone," she said.

Her advice to parents is to understand that sexting can happen anywhere with anyone, even in nice families with good kids.

“Teenagers are impulsive, they make stupid mistakes, and hopefully you can talk to your kids so that if they’re in a similar situation they can come to you for help," she said. \“People in order generations maybe didn’t have smart phones or the internet but I’m sure they did really stupid things with each other and they’re lucky there weren’t things to make what they said go viral.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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