Demi Lovato’s new documentary, “Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil,” sees the pop singer and former Disney star opening up about her past more than ever before.
In the four-part series — which opened tonight at SXSW and will premiere on YouTube March 23 — Lovato discusses her struggle with addiction and life-threatening overdose in 2018 “with a bluntness that feels outright shocking,” as Variety‘s Daniel D’Addario writes in his review. However, Lovato also details an alleged sexual assault she experienced when she was 15 – something that she has never publicly discussed.
“I lost my virginity in a rape,” Lovato says in the documentary. “I called that person back a month later and tried to make it right by being in control and all it did was make me feel worse.”
As footage from a “Camp Rock” promotion intercuts the interview, one can infer that the alleged incident occurred during Lovato’s Disney days, when she was the star of “Camp Rock” and the show “Sonny With a Chance.”
In opening up about the alleged assault, Lovato admits that she has not spoken up before as it has taken her years to process the trauma, and to understand exactly what happened to her.
“I really beat myself up for years — which is also why I had a really hard time coming to terms with the fact that it was a rape when it happened,” Lovato says. “We were hooking up but I said — hey, this is not going any farther, I’m a virgin, and I don’t want to lose it this way. And that didn’t matter to them, they did it anyways. And I internalized it and I told myself it was my fault because I still went in the room with him. I still hooked up with him.”
At the time, Lovato was part of the crowd of Disney stars who pledged to wait to have sex until marriage and wore purity rings, including the Jonas Brothers. In order to cope with the trauma and still having to interact with her abuser, Lovato says that the incident caused a downward spiral of disordered eating.
“I didn’t have the romantic first time with anybody — that was not it for me, and that sucked. And then I had to see this person all the time, and so I stopped eating, and, you know, coped in other ways — cutting, throwing up, whatever,” Lovato says. “My bulimia got so bad that I started throwing up blood for the first time.”
As to why she is choosing to publicly come forward with her story now, Lovato says she felt it was finally time to speak her truth.
“I’m coming forward about what happened to me because everyone that happens to should absolutely speak their voice if they can and feel comfortable doing so,” Lovato says. “Women are typically more repressed than men, especially at 15 years old, and especially as a little child star role model who’s supposed to be perfect, who had a promise ring! So what — I’m supposed to come out to the public after saying I have a promise ring? Six months later, I’m supposed to say, well I had sex — even though it was rape! Some people aren’t going to see it that way.”
Though Lovato does not reveal the identity of her alleged abuser, she does say that they never faced consequences for their actions, although she informed someone of the incident.
“You know what, fuck it, I’m just going to say it: My MeToo story is me telling somebody that someone did this to me and they never got in trouble for it,” Lovato says. “They never got taken out of the movie they were in. But I’ve just kept it quiet because I’ve always had something to say, and I’m tired of opening my mouth, so there’s the tea.”
Lovato also claims that she was sexually assaulted by her drug dealer the night of her life-threatening overdose in 2018. “I didn’t just overdose. I was taken advantage of,” Lovato says of the situation. “When they found me, I was naked, blue. I was literally left for dead after he took advantage of me.”
In the documentary, Lovato reveals that she is no longer sober, but is using substances in moderation in a supervised setting; that she believes her bipolar disorder diagnosis was incorrect; and that after breaking off her engagement to Max Ehrich in September 2020, she is “too queer to marry a man in my life right now.”
Monday night, Lovato announced that her first album since 2017, “Dancing With the Devil… The Art of Starting Over,” will release on April 2. During a livestream on Clubhouse, Lovato referred to the album as the “non-official soundtrack” to the documentary.
“It really does follow my life over the past couple of years,” Lovato said. “When we went through the track listing and kind of mapped out how it kind of coincided with my life’s story, it made sense to add the more emotional stuff in the beginning and then transition into ‘The Art of Starting Over.’”