Natasha Stoynoff says she personally understands what it feels like to be a victim of sexual misconduct at the hands of a powerful man.
Weeks prior to the 2016 election, Stoynoff, a writer for PEOPLE, alleged that that President Donald Trump sexually assaulted her in December 2005.
In the wake of Matt Lauer’s shocking firing from the Today show on Wednesday — he was terminated over allegations of “inappropriate sexual behavior” in the workplace — Stoynoff opened up to PEOPLE about why she chose to share her story with the world.
“When I saw Mr. Trump go at the debates and say to the world that he had never kissed a woman without her consent, I just thought: this is very wrong. Obviously it’s something I had in my memory for 10 years and lived with, but I thought it was important for America — before an election — to hear some truth,” Stoynoff said of why she came forward.
In Stoynoff’s perspective, “the lines of what women think is considered sexual misconduct or assault or harassment is very blurry.”
“I think for myself, for many many years, these kind of things would happen to me and to other women and we didn’t know what to make of it. We didn’t know how to define it. We often didn’t even know that it was really wrong and that we could speak out about it,” she continued. “So I thought it was very important for me to be clear on the facts of what happened. I didn’t even know what technically was considered sexual harassment, assault or misconduct.”
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Though Stoynoff isn’t surprised that sexual misconduct is “in every area, because I myself have seen it in every area,” she admitted, “What surprises me a bit and makes me very happy and quite emotional is to see the women speaking out now because I know it’s very, very difficult to talk about this at all to anybody.”
Since Stoynoff came forward with her own account, a flood of sexual misconduct, assault and harassment accusations have been brought against numerous high-profile men in Hollywood.
“I think the time is right now. I think it’s built up all year — and not just all year, but for the last several decades,” Stoynoff said. “It’s a turning point.”