Monica Lewinsky was 22 years old when she fell in love with her boss, who happened to be the most powerful man in the world.
She is now 41, and this week spoke out about her experience after her affair with Bill Clinton was exposed.
“Can I see a show of hands of anyone here who didn’t make a mistake or do something they regretted at 22," she asked an audience at a TED talk in Vancouver. "So like me, at 22, a few of you may have also taken wrong turns and fallen in love with the wrong person, maybe even your boss. Unlike me, though, your boss probably wasn't the president of the United States of America.”
As well as a message about the damage that comes from trolling, and calling for a more compassionate internet, Lewinsky had a message for the victims of cyber-bullying: “You can survive it”.
It's also not just about saving myself. Anyone who is suffering from shame and public humiliation needs to know one thing: You can survive it. I know it's hard. It may not be painless, quick or easy, but you can insist on a different ending to your story.
Lewinsky said she was “patient zero” in the online trolling world, and the story of her affair was Clinton was a “click that reverberated around the world”. While the scandal emerged in 1998, before the advent social media, it was not before email and online comments.
“In 1998, we had no way of knowing where this brave new technology called the Internet would take us," Lewinsky said. Since then, it has connected people in unimaginable ways, joining lost siblings, saving lives, launching revolutions, but the darkness, cyberbullying, and slut-shaming that I experienced had mushroomed.
“Every day online, people, especially young people who are not developmentally equipped to handle this, are so abused and humiliated that they can't imagine living to the next day, and some, tragically, don't, and there's nothing virtual about that.”