“At the age of 22, I fell in love with my boss. At the age of 24, I learned the devastating consequences."
“Like me, at 22, a few of you may also have taken wrong turns by falling in love with the wrong person. Maybe even your boss," she continued, according to The New York Times. "Unlike me, though, your boss probably wasn’t the President of the United States of America.”
Since becoming a household name in 1998 for having an affair with former president Bill Clinton, Lewinsky has kept a relatively low profile for the past decade. Yesterday, Lewinsky delivered a talk at TED2015 in Vancouver titled "The Price Of Shame."
Now 41, Lewinsky described the impact the Internet had on her story. “This scandal was brought to you by the digital revolution,” she said. “It was the first time traditional news was usurped by the Internet, a click that reverberated around the whole world... Overnight, I went from being a completely private figure to a publicly humiliated one worldwide."
“I was Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously," she continued. “I was branded as a tramp, tart, slut, whore, bimbo and, of course, ‘that woman.’ I was known by many, but actually known by few. I get it. It was easy to forget ‘that woman’ was dimensional and had a soul.”
As the subject of one of the first major "scandals" to play out over the Internet, Lewinsky discussed the powerful effects of online harassment. “When this happened to me, 17 years ago, there was no name for it," she told the crowd. "Now we call it cyber-bullying.”
Lewinsky cited Tyler Clementi, a New Jersey college student who committed suicide in 2010 after being cyber-bullied for being gay. “Tyler’s tragic, senseless death was a turning point for me,” Lewinsky said. “It served to re-contextualize my experiences. I began to look at the world of humiliation and bullying around me and see something different… 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.”
“Public humiliation as a blood sport has to stop,” she continued. “...Just imagine walking a mile in someone else’s headline.”
Towards the end of her talk, Lewinsky answered the question she keeps receiving: Why come into the spotlight now? “The top-note answer was and is: Because it’s time," she answered. "Time to stop tiptoeing around my past… Time to take back my narrative."
Watch Lewinsky's full speech below.