True Story: Life After A Famous Political Sex Scandal

Whenever Monica Lewinsky is in the news, it triggers a lot of emotions for me. I feel a certain camaraderie with her; a bizarre sisterhood. She and I were both 22 years old when we made mistakes that would haunt us for the rest of our lives. No, I didn’t perform oral sex on a sitting president. But I did engage in a sexting relationship with disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner, who then chose to run for mayor of the largest city in the country. How many of you can say that the decisions you made at 22 were all great life choices? Choices that you’d be fine with having plastered all over the internet for eternity?

People ask me things like, “Why did you choose to become a media whore instead of hiding and regaining your dignity like Monica?” The answer is quite simple really: I was poor. When I was outed by Buzzfeed, I was forced to quit my job. As someone who was connected to a huge media scandal, I knew that it would be very difficult for me to get another position. I knew that whatever amibitions I had were crushed and that I would have to take my life in a very different direction if I planned on paying my bills. Unlike Monica, I did not have the socioeconomic means to hide away from the public, as nice as that sounded. My family loves me, but they aren’t wealthy and couldn’t offer a financial safety net when I was disgraced and unemployed. My parents divorced before I was 2. Eventually, my mother left, and my father was forced to take on the role of single dad while he also busted his ass for next to nothing working in a factory. I realized at a very young age that I was going to have to take care of myself. So that’s what I’ve done.

It’s easy to judge. But what if Monica was your sister? What if I was your daughter or friend? When you look at it that way, things aren’t so simple or black and white. Again, I’d ask you to remember yourself at 22. What if the most powerful man in the free world was hitting on you? What if a former congressman you idolized began to flirt with you on a daily basis? Initially, I was shocked and I was flattered. But the older I get and the more I think about my situation, and about Monica’s, the more I realize that there was an unfair dynamic. A 22-year-old intern and the President aren’t exactly an equal match, just like a 22-year-old Hoosier with PTSD isn’t on the same level as a middle-aged former congressman. The media onslaught that came after was bizarre and sad for both of us. Monica and I were both labeled fat sluts. We were both punchlines for late-night TV. Like when Chelsea Handler, who claims to be very pro-women, said that I was 20 pounds overweight. Or like the time my dad called me crying because Jay Leno called me a “dumb ho.”

But what about the men in these situations? Where does their responsibility lie? Thomas Roberts on MSNBC called me “batshit crazy” with no mention of Weiner’s bad behavior, even though he was the one who was much older, married, a former congressman, and running for mayor. And MSNBC didn’t punish him. The network I was freakishly obsessed with threw me to the wolves. That really hurt me. I get that Anthony Weiner is a Democrat so they wanted to go easy on him. I was just naive enough not to realize that going easy on him meant being very hard on me. I genuinely worry about whoever the media outs next for having an inappropriate relationship with a politician. They, too, will be made into a punchline, but not everyone can handle it. I almost took my life. What if the next person can’t talk themselves out of it? Shouldn’t that be something sites like Buzzfeed consider before they out someone? Are they okay with getting a little blood on their hands for the sake of a few clicks?

When Monica spoke about that feeling of global humiliation at the Forbes Under 30 Summit, I knew exactly what she meant. I quite literally wanted to die when I first understood that I had been outed. I seriously considered suicide. It felt like there was no other option for a moment. There is nothing like having everyone you’ve ever known, not to mention the public, find out about your dirtiest little secret. It’s humbling to say the least. Seeing Monica come forward to stand up for herself was a powerful moment for me. It gives me hope that regardless of what I’ve done or who people think I am, it’s up to me to turn things around. It’s up to me to decide what I want my life to look like. I can’t give anyone else that power. Seeing how poised she is gives me hope that in the future I can embody the same strength and courage. Hats off to Monica. She just might be the bravest woman in America.