Monica Lewinsky Launches Campaign To Tackle Cyberbulling – And Claims She Was First Ever Victim Of Trolls

She announced the campaign at yesterday's #30under30 summit, where she spoke publicly about her affair with Bill Clinton for the first time ever

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by Stevie Martin |
Published on

At yesterday’s #30Under30 summit, Monica Lewinsky spoke out against trolling and cyberbullying, citing herself as ‘Patient Zero’ after her affair with Bill Clinton went viral 16 years ago.

Monica remembered how as a 22-year-old intern, she ‘fell in love with my boss in a 22-year-old sort of a way. It happens. But my boss was the President of the United States’ – before going on to discuss the way in which their affair was made public.

‘Within 24 hours I became a public figure, not just in the United States but around the entire globe,’ she said. ‘As far as major news stories were concerned, this was the very first time that the traditional media was usurped by the internet.’

It was the first case, she says, of truly social media – despite the fact it was done on ‘excruciatingly slow dial-up’.

Because of this, Monica has logged into Twitter for the first time (first tweet: #HereWeGo) and talks in the summit of launching an anti-online-bullying faction called The Tyler Clementi Foundation.

Named after the fresher who, in 2010, was videoed kissing another man and, after being ridiculed on the internet, jumped to his death off George Washington Bridge, the foundation aims to provide ‘safe, inclusive and respectful social environments for vulnerable youth, LGBT youth and their allies’.

READ MORE: Hillary Clinton Breaks Silence On Monica Lewinsky To Wish Her Well

‘Of the cyberbullying-related suicides, 43 per cent have occurred since Tyler sadly jumped from that bridge. Among young Facebook users, close to 54 per cent say they’ve been cyberbullied,’ Monica added.

She, herself, relates to the humiliation – as, she goes on to say, does Jennifer Lawrence – ‘Or any of the 90,000 people whose private Snapchat pictures were released last week during “the Snappening”.’

Monica’s was a humiliation where not only were private letters and events published for the world to see, but she went through a highly public court case during which the personal details of the affair were raked through over and over.

‘Before a Grand Jury seated in the case of The United States vs. Lewinsky, I was called upon to testify to a room full of strangers on unimaginably intimate details of my life. Unimaginably intimate details which were later made public in a report online,’ she said. ‘Frankly, I came close to disintegrating. No, it’s not too strong a word. I wish it were, but it isn’t.’

Interestingly, though, she has made the decision to keep her name and her identity all these years later in order to do some good: ‘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.’

She’s a particularly strong and pertinent example of how to come through the fire and turn a terrible experience into something different, something that can change things. Even now, those who are humiliated both on- and offline are forced to take on new identities in order to escape the trolling and live peacefully.

Look at the victim in the recent Ched Evans case – the 19-year-old whom the footballer was convicted of raping was forced to change her identity and go into hiding. After which, internet trolls revealed her identity and whereabouts online, so that thousands of footballers who blame her for the fact he may not be allowed to return to the game could subject her to abuse.

Nine of them have been convicted, but the now-22-year-old has just faced a recent spate of attacks, with her identity being leaked once again by those who believe Ched is innocent.

READ MORE: Monica Lewisnky Has A Message For Beyoncé Regarding Her Use Of Verbs In Partition

With the recent change in the law, trolls can be sentenced up to two years in prison – but that doesn’t stop the fact that a rape victim has had her name and address broadcast to thousands of strangers. Something more needs to be done.

Which is exactly the sort of thing that the Tyler Clementi Foundation hopes to address, although how it will work is still unclear. Monica’s mission statement, however, is more than clear: ‘I had been publicly silent for a decade. But now, I must – as TS Eliot’s Prufrock said – disturb the universe,’ Monica Lewinsky told the summit.

‘Either way, what we need is a radical change in attitudes – on the internet, mobile platforms and in the society of which they are a part. Actually, what we really need is a cultural revolution. Online, we’ve got a compassion deficit, an empathy crisis — and something tells me that matters a lot more to most of us.’


You might also be interested in:

It’s Time To Stop Trolling Ched Evans And Remember Who The Real Criminal Is

Ched Evans Rape Case To Be Reviewed As He Maintains His Innocence

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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