She was 23 when FBI agents surrounded her - while she was having lunch with a colleague in Washington DC - in January 1998. She was unaware that the lunch was a trap. What followed was a scandal that shook the world. She was caught having an affair with her boss, a married man at 49, who also happened to be one of the most powerful men in the world. Tabloids had a field day. She was intimidated, threatened, bullied, and pushed to the extremes of humiliation - in an ugly political storm that raged for months.
She was branded a tramp, tart, slut, whore, and a bimbo. The world stood around, stoning her virtually to death. Her cry for mercy went unheeded.
"Overnight, I went from being a completely private figure to a publicly humiliated one worldwide", she said in a speech years later. In the following years, she tried returning to normal life, occasionally appearing on TV shows, but life was anything but normal. She was always identified as "that woman".
In 2005, she left everything behind and went to UK, where she graduated with a master's degree in Social Psychology from the London School of Economics. A small circle of friends were her support. Yet the bitter memories continued to haunt her. She was constantly hyper-aware of how others were perceiving her. Her friends even suggested that she change her name, but she refused.
After more than a decade of living in silence, she decided to come out in the open in 2014, and help young people who were bullied, shamed, and intimidated, for mistakes they did or did not do. She became a social activist and an anti-bullying advocate. She joined hands with organizations like Bystander Revolution to help kids fight cyber bullying.
In March 2015, she gave a TED talk about the shame that stuck to her like tar. "Not a day goes by, that I'm not reminded of my mistake", she said, narrating her story, choking at times and holding back tears. In a world of hypocrites, where many still hasten to stone her, she stands out as a wonderful human being, who has learnt from the mistakes of her youth, turned her life around, and is making a difference in the society today. She still goes by her real name - Monica Lewinsky.
In an unforgiving world, few get a second chance; very few make a difference with it.