Monica Lewinsky plans to use the experience she gained from the bullying she received after her affair with President Bill Clinton, which became public in 1998, to fight cyberbullying. The affair turned her into a household name in the United States and beyond, with the media reporting intimate details of their 18-month relationship that led to the impeachment of President Clinton in 1998.
Lewinsky was speaking at the Forbes “30 under 30” inaugural summit in Philadelphia, PA on Monday. According to Forbes magazine, she told the audience that she was the “first person to have their reputation destroyed via the internet.”
Lewinsky said she was motivated to speak out against cyberbullying by Tyler Clementi’s death in 2012. Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University in New Jersey, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after his roommate posted a video on the internet that showed him kissing a man in their dorm room, leading to constant ridicule online.
Lewinsky was a 22-year-old intern at the White House when the affair with the president began. She told those attending the summit that she at times felt suicidal during this period. She said even though the internet was not as encompassing during that era, her name was featured in gossip columns and entertainment news outlets. “I was patient zero,” Lewinsky said, according to Forbes magazine.
Lewinsky’s tribulations can be traced back to a friendship that went sour, where a trusted friend shared private details of her affair with President Clinton with the public. She had confided details of her affair to Linda Tripp, her then workmate at the Pentagon. Unknown to her, Tripp taped 20 hours of conversation in which Lewinsky gave detailed accounts of her sexual encounters with President Clinton. Tripp finally lured Lewinsky to a Washington DC hotel room where she was confronted by FBI agents who questioned her about her affair with the president. Tripp is reported to have left the hotel to share the tapes with lawyers representing Paula Jones, who, at the time, had sued President Clinton for sexual harassment when he was the governor of Arkansas years earlier.
According to a story carried by AFP, Lewinsky wrote an article in Vanity Fair this week in which she said she has decided to finally stick her head above the parapet so as to take back her narrative and give a purpose to her past. “It is time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress,” she said in the article.
Monica Lewinsky’s goal to use her personal experience on cyberbullying, from her affair with President Clinton, shines light on an issue that the CDC considers a matter of concern to the society. A report on the institution’s website titled “Measuring Bullying Victimization, Perpetration and Bystander Experiences: A Compedium of Assessment Tools,” says that nearly 30 percent of American youth have experienced some form of bullying, with some leading to suicides. The report further states that bullying is the leading cause of death among young people in the United States, with more than 4,000 deaths reported every year.
By Benedicto Ateku