You don’t know me, Monika, but I feel like I’ve always known you. Or at least I’ve known that picture of you that the media had painted: the “tramp, tart, slut, whore, bimbo”.
But now I realize, listening to this TED speech, that I never knew you at all. Now I realize how much my ignorance hurt you. And I am truly sorry.
Monika, I never knew the soul within you and the person you were before the story broke. The story of that woman, and The President.
I never knew the bright, vivacious individual you must have been before your world imploded. The person who – at just 22 year of age – was clearly too young to know better. And was taken advantage of by a man, a very powerful man, who she trusted.
You’re not the first woman to fall in love, and follow your heart, and be vilified in the process. But you may have been the first woman whose reputation would be destroyed instantaneously, on a global scale, by the emerging power of the internet. Email by vicious email. News site by conniving news site.
You and I are just a year apart in age. We’re both educated women. We both made mistakes as 22 year olds. But unlike you, my mistakes weren’t broadcast around the world, swept up in the wave of the World Wide Web.
Unlike you, my mistakes weren’t consumed, click-by-click, by millions upon millions of people, all around the world.
Unlike you, I didn’t lose my reputation and my dignity, only to be reminded of that every single day of my life, for almost my entire adult life.
Monika, I’m sorry I didn’t take the responsibility seventeen years ago to get to know the real you. To stand up for you. To have compassion for your situation and to recognise that you were a victim, not only in the workplace but of a global phenomenon we would come to know all too well. Cyber bullying.
But I am so, so glad you’ve overcome the adversity, reclaimed your narrative and reclaimed your life. Because for other victims of cyber bullying, your story offers hope.
In my work in the student wellbeing sector, I’ve heard story after story of young people whose public harassment and humiliation doesn’t end with “happily ever after”. Young people who are so impacted by the shaming and bullying inflicted upon them that they cant imaging living another day. And who sadly don’t.
But your story reminds us that there is always, ALWAYS hope. And there is always a reason to live on another day. The story of your parents’ loyalty and love and commitment. And the story of your own courage. I can’t help but admire that.
Monika, you’ve reminded me that we each have a very important responsibility to change our community’s attitude and response to public humiliation. To show more compassion. To step up and step into the conversation. To shut down the bullies and stand behind the victims.
And for that, I thank you.
PS. It’s voting time here tomorrow in NSW and on behalf of all my team at Peer Support Australia I send good wishes to our local member, Premier Mike Baird.
Mr Baird is a committed and passionate supporter of young people and has been an avid supporter of the work we’re doing at Peer Support Australia to provide leadership and resilience and wellbeing skills to school students right across Australia.
Peer Support began 30 years ago in the aftermath of a student overdose, in Mr Baird’s own local electorate. It hasn’t always been easy to get the support of policy makers and yet it’s been so important to our success.
So a big thank you for believing in the work we’re doing, and good luck in the election results on Saturday!