On Monday 20th October 2014 Monica Lewinsky broke a more than decade long silence and delivered a brave speech to 1,000-plus young entrepreneurs and achievers at Forbes' 30 Under 30 Summit in Philadelphia.
Lewinsky declared "today, I think of myself as someone – who the hell knows how – survived. But having survived myself, what I want to do now is help other victims of the shame game survive too. I want to put my suffering to good use and give purpose to my past." Lewinsky gives us insight into the plight of public humiliation and bullying, how she lost her sense of herself, her constant battle against suicidal feelings, and how the love and support from her family have kept her going. Lewinsky believes that what we need is a radical change in attitudes — on the internet, mobile platforms and in the society of which they play such a part. She asserts that we are all vulnerable to humiliation, private and public figures alike.
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Fresh out of college in 1995, Monica Lewinsky, a 22-year-old intern in the White House fell in love with her boss - the President of the United States. The affair lasted, on and off, for two years. When the affair became public in 1998, it was the biggest global scandal, and as Lewinsky put it, the story went "Public with a vengeance". Within 24 hours she became a global public figure, thanks to the internet and a website that at the time, was scarcely known outside of Washington DC but a website most of us know today called the Drudge report. As far as major news stories were concerned, this was the very first time that the traditional media was usurped by the Internet.
Lewinsky shares her shame for herself and for the pain she had put her family through, the betrayal of a friend who had recorded more than 20 hours of private intimate phone conversations, her fear of threat from the FBI, the threat of a 27 year jail term for denying the affair and other alleged crimes, the threat that her mother may also face prosecution if Monica did not cooperate and wear a wire. Her family and friends were issued with subpoenas to testify against her. For several months she was unable to speak to her younger brother and other family members to prevent them too from being dragged into the legal affray.
Before a Grand Jury, she was called upon to testify about unimaginably intimate details of her life, which were later made public in an online report. Lewinsky asks the question "what does it actually feel like? What does it really feel like to watch yourself – or your name and likeness—to be ripped apart online?". She describes regular, everyday experiences of being abused. "There was a rotation of worsening name calling and descriptions of me. I would go online, read in a paper or see on TV people referring to me as: tramp, slut, whore, tart, bimbo, floozy, even spy. The New York Post's Page Six took to calling me, almost daily, the Portly Pepperpot. I was shattered.".
When the Starr Report was released online, on September 11, 1998, Lewinsky described, "Staring at the computer screen, I spent the day shouting: "Oh my god!" and "I can't believe they put that in." Or "That's so out of context." And those were the only thoughts that interrupted a relentless mantra in my head: I want to die. I couldn't imagine ever showing my face in public again. I cringed. I yelled. I sobbed. And the mantra continued: I just want to die."
Lewinsky completed a masters degree in psychology from the London School of Economics. Previously to London, she tried a range of businesses in the US ranging from launching a handbag collection to television production to endorsing various products.