Monica Lewinsky speaks out on cyberbullying, suicidal thoughts and turncoat feminists

Monica Lewinsky Speaks About Ending Cyberbullying

Monica Lewinsky is back in the news on a Saturday with a candid interview with The Guardian in which she confessed to having suicidal thoughts after the Bill Clinton sex scandal and becoming a victim of cyber-bullying.

Lewinsky said she never attempted suicide, but confessed that she "came very close." After being ridiculed around the world, she has become a respected anti-bullying advocate who gives talks at Facebook, Forbes and the well-respected TED conference. She also works with organizations such as Bystander Revolution, which helps victims of cyber-bullying.

See images of Monica Lewinsky at the Vanity Fair Oscars party:

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Monica Lewinsky at the Oscars 2016
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Monica Lewinsky speaks out on cyberbullying, suicidal thoughts and turncoat feminists
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 28: Monica Lewinsky attends the 2016 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 28, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 28: TV personality Monica Lewinsky arrives at the 2016 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted by Graydon Carter at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 28, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 28: TV personality Monica Lewinsky attends the 2016 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted By Graydon Carter at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 28, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 28: Monica Lewinsky attends the 2016 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted By Graydon Carter at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 28, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 28: TV personality Monica Lewinsky attends the 2016 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted By Graydon Carter at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 28, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
Monica Lewinsky arrives for the 2016 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Sunday, February 28, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. / AFP / ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ (Photo credit should read ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 28: TV personality Monica Lewinsky attends the 2016 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted By Graydon Carter at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 28, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 28: Monica Lewinsky attends the 2016 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted By Graydon Carter at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 28, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 28: Television personality Monica Lewinsky attends the 2016 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 28, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
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"Overnight, I went from being a completely private figure to a publicly humiliated one worldwide. Granted, it was before social media, but people could still comment online, email stories, and, of course, email cruel jokes. I was branded as a tramp, tart, slut, whore, bimbo, and, of course, 'that woman'. It was easy to forget that 'that woman' was dimensional, had a soul, and was once unbroken," said Lewinsky, who told The Guardian that she is now "hyper-aware of how other people may be perceiving me."

In her new interview, she declined to discuss this year's political campaign or answer questions about whether she's worried her past would come back to haunt her — or Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Last December, GOP frontrunner said he considered Lewinsky "fair game" in the campaign.

Lewinsky was only in her early 20s when she was thrust into the media spotlight for having sexual relationships with President Bill Clinton, which came to light after her friend at the Pentagon, Linda Tripp, recorded conversations with her about the illicit affair. The FBI threatened Lewinsky with a perjury charge and 27 years in prison if she failed to cooperate with their investigation into allegations that Clinton sexually harassed Paula Jones.

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Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky
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Monica Lewinsky speaks out on cyberbullying, suicidal thoughts and turncoat feminists
Monica Lewinsky Embraces President Bill Clinton At A Democratic Fundraiser in Washington D.C. on 10/23/96. (Photo By Dirck Halstead/Getty Images)
A photograph showing former White House intern Monica Lewinsky meeting President Bill Clinton at a White House function submitted as evidence in documents by the Starr investigation and released by the House Judicary committee September 21, 1998.
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Lewinsky told the Guardian that she doesn't like to dwell on the past, and nearly canceled the interview. She chose to step out of the shadows to discuss public shaming and online harassment, which is the subject of a Guardian series titled "The Web We Want."

For years, she has been managing trauma and carefully weighing the consequences of her words. "The truth is I'm exhausted," she said. "So I'm worried I may misspeak, and that thing will become the headline and the cycle will start all over again."

Lewinsky grew up with weight issues in Beverly Hills, so public shaming isn't new to her. "Those memories inform a lot of who we become," she said. "They contributed to me not having a strong sense of self."

Nowadays, she said that "Destigmatizing the shame around online harassment is the first step," she says. "Well, the first step is recognizing there's a problem."

She said she'd "do anything to have my anonymity back," since it was stolen from her with the release of special investigator Kenneth Starr's 3,000-page report detailing her nine sexual encounters with Clinton.

"That people could read the transcripts was horrific enough, but a few weeks later the audio tapes [secretly recorded by Tripp secretly recording] were aired on TV, and significant portions made available online," she said. "The public humiliation was excruciating. Life was almost unbearable."

Lewinsky also said she "felt like every layer of my skin and my identity were ripped off of me in '98 and '99. It's a skinning of sorts. You feel incredibly raw and frightened. But I also feel like the shame sticks to you like tar."

The Guardian's own research into the online harassment of its own writers suggests that women get more abuse online than men, regardless of what they write about, but especially when they write about feminist issues. And yet, the harassment doesn't always come from men.

"A lot of vicious things that happen online to women and minorities do happen at the hands of men, but they also happen at the hands of women. Women are not immune to misogyny," said Lewinsky, who had her own share of female detractors taking potshots at her during that painful time in her life.

"I think it's fair to say that whatever mistakes I made, I was hung out to dry by a lot of people — by a lot of the feminists who had loud voices," Lewinsky said. "I wish it had been handled differently. It was very scary and very confusing to be a young woman thrust on to the world stage and not belonging to any group."

Lewinsky had planned to lead a more private life, going so far as to move to London. However, she found it difficult to get work overseas. Years before, her qualifications landed her an internship at the White House, but the stigma surrounding the Clinton controversy has continued to be a black mark on her record.

"I was going through such a hard time," said Lewinsky, who added that she was "really floundering. I could not find my way." That's when she set out to de-objectify herself and make the world realize that she's a person with feelings, just like everyone else — not an object who exists to be ridiculed.

Today, she's eager to give a purpose to her past and help people deal with feelings of shame. "There's a tendency to not want to tell someone what's going on," said Lewinsky, who advises fellow victims to "integrate the experience, the faster the better."

Lewinsky's final piece of advice is for bystanders, suggesting "don't bully the bully. It doesn't move the conversation forward." She's taking a more positive approach, designing a keyboard of anti-bullying gifs and emojis for Vodafone.

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Monica Lewinsky through the years
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Monica Lewinsky speaks out on cyberbullying, suicidal thoughts and turncoat feminists
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 21: Monica Lewinsky attends Vanity Fair & SAKS Fifth Avenue International Best Dressed List at Saks Fifth Avenue on September 21, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 21: Victor Garber, Monica Lewinsky, Anne McNally, Anh Duong, Rainer Andreesen attend the Saks Fifth Avenue + Vanity Fair: 2016 International Best Dressed List Celebration at Saks Fifth Avenue on September 21, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 21: TV personality Monica Lewinsky, shoe detail, attends the 2016 Vanity Fair International Best Dressed List at Saks Fifth Avenue on September 21, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 21: TV personality Monica Lewinsky, bag detail, attends the 2016 Vanity Fair International Best Dressed List at Saks Fifth Avenue on September 21, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 16: Monica Lewinsky attends 'Hoping's Greatest Hits', the 10th anniversary of The Hoping Foundation's fundraising event for Palestinian refugee children hosted by Bella Freud and Karma Nabulsi, at Ronnie Scott's on June 16, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 16: Philip Colbert (L) and Monica Lewinsky attend 'Hoping's Greatest Hits', the 10th anniversary of The Hoping Foundation's fundraising event for Palestinian refugee children hosted by Bella Freud and Karma Nabulsi, at Ronnie Scott's on June 16, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 16: Monica Lewinsky attends 'Hoping's Greatest Hits', the 10th anniversary of The Hoping Foundation's fundraising event for Palestinian refugee children hosted by Bella Freud and Karma Nabulsi, at Ronnie Scott's on June 16, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 23: Monica Lewinsky attends the gala screening of 'Despite The Falling Snow' on March 23, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Monica Lewinsky poses backstage at the hit musical based on the cult film 'American Psycho' on Broadway at The Schoenfeld Theatre on May 02, 2016 in New York, New York. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
Monica Lewinsky arrives to the Vanity Fair Party following the 88th Academy Awards at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills Sunday evening, February 28, 2016. (Photo by Axel Koester/Corbis via Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 28: TV personality Monica Lewinsky arrives at the 2016 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 28, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 23: Monica Lewinsky attends a special Charity Premiere of 'Despite The Falling Snow' in aid of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund at The May Fair Hotel on March 23, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 28: TV personality Monica Lewinsky attends the 2016 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 28, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 12: (L to R) Olga Kurylenko, Alice Temperley and Monica Lewinsky attend an intimate dinner party hosted by Alice Temperley to celebrate 15 years of Temperley at GWP Studio on November 12, 2015 in London, England. Guests drank Baileys Flat White martinis to toast the occasion and mark the significant milestone for the brand. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Temperley London)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 23: Monica Lewinsky arrives for the gala screening of 'Despite The Falling Snow' on March 23, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 19: Monica Lewinsky (R) visits TV/Radio host Andy Cohen (L) at Radio Andy at SiriusXM Studios on October 19, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Anna Webber/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 06: Monica Lewinsky attends the Forbes Under 30 Summit at Pennsylvania Convention Center on October 6, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images)
Monica Lewinsky attends the Spring Gala In Aid of the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital hosted by QBF and Kerzner Calliva at Claridge's Hotel on May 12, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Getty Images for Quercus Biasi Foundation)
Monica Lewinsky attends the Spring Gala In Aid of the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital hosted by QBF and Kerzner Calliva at Claridge's Hotel on May 12, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Getty Images for Quercus Biasi Foundation)
Designer Monica Lewinsky attends the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 22, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
Actor Alan Cumming and designer Monica Lewinsky attend HBO's Post 2015 Golden Globe Awards Party at Circa 55 Restaurant on January 11, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Monica Lewinsky arrives at International Documentary Association's 2014 IDA Documentary Awards at Paramount Studios on December 5, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images)
David Friend and Monica Lewinsky attend the Kitchen Spring Gala Benefit 2014 at Cipriani Wall Street on May 22, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)
Monica Lewinsky attends Entertainment Weekly's 'LA Can't Have All The Fun' 10th Anniversary Oscar Party at Elaine's on February 29, 2004 in New York City. (Photo by Thos Robinson/Getty Images)
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