Updated:LANCASTER, S.C.,None - The moment 24-year-old Paige Duke saw the pictures a friend had emailed to her, her mother heard her scream from outside the house.
"They were nude pictures of me, and I was in shock. At first, I couldn't believe it," Duke said.
Six years earlier, at just 18, Duke was a freshman at Clemson University. She had sent the racy pictures to her boyfriend, thinking his eyes would be the only ones to ever see them.
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"I thought that was the way to win his heart, to compete with other girls. I wanted to be the object of his desire, and I thought this was how you did it," she said.
For years, she thought little of it, and last year landed a major job as Miss Sprint Cup with the NASCAR racing circuit. She got to travel, meet thousands of fans, enjoy the thrills of victory lane and be a role model.
That ended when the nude pictures surfaced and quickly spread from a mass email to websites across the Internet.
Sprint fired Duke from her job.
"I thought my life was over. I thought it was the end of the world," she said.
Her mother, Beverly, also saw the pictures, never knowing they even existed.
"I looked at them and was like, ‘Oh, my gosh! What is that? How did that get there?'" she said. "This is probably the hardest thing that our family's ever gone through."
The family has hired lawyers to find and delete the pictures from the Internet, forcing various websites to remove them. They are also looking for the source of the pictures.
Duke said she called her ex-boyfriend after the pictures appeared to ask him about it.
"I said, ‘How could you do a thing like this to me?' and he said, ‘I don't know what you're talking about,'" she said.
She's not sure how the pictures ended up online after six years or who actually had possession of the computer they came from.
Duke is humble about the experience and understands why Sprint had to let her go. She had a morality clause in her contract with the company and knows it was violated.
However, instead of hiding from it, she decided to face it and tell her story.
"I was just devastated," she said. "I felt helpless. I felt betrayed."
Sexting is prevalent among teens and often has devastating personal and emotional consequences. Duke said she wants to talk to young people about it.
"Something you think is private is not always going to be private. It only takes one person who wants to bring you down. Who thinks that after six years these pictures are going to come back to haunt me?" she said.
Duke added: "If I can just save one girl from making the same mistake, and thinking twice about this, it's going to be something positive," she said.
If the person responsible is caught, he or she could face charges of invasion of privacy and copyright infringement. Duke isn't sure that will ever happen, but she does want justice.
"I'm not out for revenge, but I want them to feel some heat, to feel some of what it's been like for me," she said.
As for future plans, she said she hopes to visit area schools and reach teens with her story of the dangers of sexting.
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