To mark the 20th anniversary of the Starr investigation, Monica Lewinsky wrote an essay for Vanity Fair reflecting on her affair with Bill Clinton in the late 1990s and the lasting effects of the exposure and humiliation she endured at the time. Perhaps most pointedly, she shares how the #MeToo movement has helped her unpack and reconsider the events that forever altered the course of her life.
Lewinsky writes that she has suffered from post-traumatic stress since the scandal, which thrust her into the midst of a very public investigation against Bill Clinton. At the time of their relationship, he was the President of the United States. She was a 22-year-old White House intern.
“Given my PTSD and my understanding of trauma, it’s very likely that my thinking would not necessarily be changing at this time had it not been for the #MeToo movement — not only because of the new lens it has provided but also because of how it has offered new avenues toward the safety that comes from solidarity,” Lewinsky writes.
She goes on to explain that for many years, she took pains to emphasize that her affair with Clinton, while inappropriate and ill-advised, was consensual. But since nuanced conversations about sexual misconduct and consent have begun to dominate the national conversation, Lewinsky has started to rethink her own circumstances.
“Now, at 44, I’m beginning (just beginning) to consider the implications of the power differentials that were so vast between a president and a White House intern,” she writes. “I’m beginning to entertain the notion that in such a circumstance the idea of consent might well be rendered moot.”
Lewinsky also reveals that during a private conversation, one of the #MeToo founders recently told her, “I’m sorry you were so alone.” The comment, Lewinsky writes, brought her to tears.
“Yes, I had received many letters of support in 1998,” she adds. “And, yes (thank God!), I had my family and friends to support me. But by and large I had been alone. So. Very. Alone. Publicly Alone — abandoned most of all by the key figure in the crisis, who actually knew me well and intimately. That I had made mistakes, on that we can all agree. But swimming in that sea of Aloneness was terrifying.”
Read the full essay at Vanity Fair.