WASHINGTON - Monica Lewinsky says there's no question her boss - Bill Clinton - "took advantage" of her when he was president.
But she says their affair was consensual and if there was any abuse involved, it came afterward, when Clinton's inner circle tried to discredit her and the president's opponents used her as a political pawn.
The former White House intern, now 40, writes about her life in the next issue of Vanity Fair magazine, out this month. In released excerpts, she says she's perhaps the first Internet-era scapegoat and wants to speak out on behalf of other victims of online humiliation.
Her willingness to step forward may come at an inopportune time as former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton considers running for president. Republicans have signaled they don't consider her husband's scandal from the late 1990s out of bounds in the realm of 2016-style political dialogue.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a likely GOP presidential contender, answered criticisms of the Republican record on women's issues by saying in January that the last Democratic president engaged in "predatory behavior" with a woman, Lewinsky, who was 22 when her liaisons with Clinton began in 1995. Clinton's lies about the relationship contributed to his impeachment by the House in 1998; the Senate acquitted him.
Lewinsky writes that she deeply regrets the affair and made a point of staying silent through several presidential campaigns to avoid becoming a distraction. Now, she writes, it's time to stop "tiptoeing around my past - and other people's futures. I am determined to have a different ending to my story. I've decided, finally, to stick my head above the parapet."
Invoking her headwear from endlessly repeated TV clips and the stained garment considered as evidence against Clinton, she writes: "It's time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress."
But these aren't her first public words on the scandal. Lewinsky broke her silence in 1999 with a blockbuster interview with Barbara Walters, gave several subsequent interviews and cooperated with author Andrew Morton on his book the same year, titled Monica's Story.
"Sure, my boss took advantage of me," she writes now, "but I will always remain firm on this point: It was a consensual relationship. Any 'abuse' came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position."