Monica Lewinsky, the infamous former White House intern who engaged in a scandalous sexual relationship with President Bill Clinton, is speaking out against cyberbullying after struggling with public shame and censure for almost 20 years.
During an interview with the Guardian that was published on Saturday, Lewinsky, 42, expressed bitter regret for her actions and the consequences brought upon her in the aftermath of her affair with Clinton in the late 1990's.
"I felt like every layer of my skin and my identity were ripped off of me in ’98 and ’99," Lewinsky told Jon Ronson with the Guardian. "It’s a skinning of sorts. You feel incredibly raw and frightened. But I also feel like the shame sticks to you like tar."
Lewinsky, who has given very few interviews since the affair made headlines, reportedly almost cancelled her interview with Ronson.
"I’m hesitating because I have to think through the consequences of saying this," Lewinsky said. "I still have to manage a lot of trauma to do what I’m doing, even to come here. Any time I put myself in the hands of other people ... I think it’s fair to say that whatever mistakes I made, I was hung out to dry by a lot of people – by a lot of the feminists who had loud voices. I wish it had been handled differently. It was very scary and very confusing to be a young woman thrust on to the world stage and not belonging to any group. I didn’t belong to anybody."
In February, Lewinsky launched her own line of special anti-bullying emojis for use on Apple devices, according to Newsweek. And just last year, Lewinsky came out publicly when she spoke for a TED Talk about her experiences and advocated "for a safer and more compassionate social media environment, drawing from her unique experiences at the epicenter of a media maelstrom in 1998."
"Overnight, I went from being a completely private figure to a publicly humiliated one worldwide," Lewinsky had said. "Granted, it was before social media, but people could still comment online, email stories, and, of course, email cruel jokes. I was branded as a tramp, tart, slut, whore, bimbo, and, of course, ‘that woman’. It was easy to forget that ‘that woman’ was dimensional, had a soul, and was once unbroken."
Lewinsky now offers advice to those who suffer from cyberbullying that she gained from her own experiences in the national spotlight.
"To be able to give a purpose to my past, if I’m stuck with my past, feels meaningful to me," Lewinsky told the Guardian. "Integrate what has happened to you. Integrate the experience, the faster the better. There’s shame about the shame. So there’s a tendency to not want to tell someone what’s going on."
She also added, "The fear of ostracisation strikes at the core of who we are. We cannot survive alone."
Many social media users took to Twitter to express their support for Lewinsky and praise her for her courage in speaking out.
If you defend your lying cheating husband while vilifying another woman- you dont pass my feminist test. Monica Lewinsky was treated badly.— Tina-Desiree Berg (@TinaDesireeBerg) April 16, 2016
Monica Lewinsky was in her early 20s. It disgusts me how the media destroyed her overnight. She is owed an apology she'll never get.— Charles Clymer (@cmclymer) April 16, 2016
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