In a new docuseries, the singer says she was assaulted as a teen and after telling somebody, the rapist ‘never got taken out of the movie they were in’
‘I’m just gonna say it: my #MeToo story is me telling somebody that someone did this to me, and they never got in trouble for it’, the singer said. Photograph: PR
The Guardian- Adrian Horton
Demi Lovato has said she was raped as a teenager while working for the Disney Channel in the late 2000s by someone who faced no repercussions when she revealed what happened. The singer does not say who the offender was, only that she “had to see this person all the time” afterwards.
The comments were part of a larger story told by Lovato in her YouTube docuseries Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil, which premiered at SXSW on Tuesday, about trauma, addiction and her near-fatal drug overdose in July 2018. Lovato, 28, has long been open about her struggles with drug and alcohol addiction and bulimia, including in her 2017 YouTube Originals documentary Simply Complicated.
In several interviews filmed over the course of 2020, Lovato described the eating disorder and control by her then management team in 2018 that contributed to breaking six years of sobriety, and the overdose that landed her in Cedars-Sinai medical center in Los Angeles for several weeks. She said she was “left for dead” by her drug dealer after he raped her during the overdose, and that she saw him during a one-time relapse after a stay in a treatment facility in an effort to assert control.
Her return, she said, mirrored the experience she had as a teenager. “I lost my virginity in a rape,” she said. “I called that person back a month later and tried to make it right by being in control, and all it did was just make me feel worse.”
Both times were “textbook trauma re-enactments, and 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 did not reveal when or where the assault happened, but noted it was during the time she was “a part of that Disney crowd that publicly said they were waiting till marriage”, referring to the purity rings – jewellery symbolizing one’s commitment to waiting for sex until marriage – temporarily worn in the late 2000s by young teenage Disney stars including Nick and Joe Jonas, Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez.
Lovato said she wore a purity ring in 2008, when she shot to fame with the Disney Channel movie Camp Rock, filmed when she was 15. The film and its 2010 sequel co-starred the Jonas Brothers, Meaghan Martin and Alyson Stoner.
Her description of the experience was spliced with two interviews from the era: one on a red carpet for the American Music Awards in 2008, the other seemingly from the set of Camp Rock 2, in which she said she had become “more aware of just life and people and the way that the business works” since filming the first movie. “I think I’m able to protect myself a little more.”
Lovato did not name an offender and described a consensual experience that turned traumatic: “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.”
She said the encounter, and the pressure to maintain an image of purity, contributed to her bulimia and self-harm at the time, and that she struggled to recognize it as rape. “The Christian, southern girl in me didn’t see it that way because sex was not normalized as a child or in the south,” she said. “And, you know what, fuck it, I’m just gonna say it: my #MeToo story is me telling somebody that someone did this to me, and they never got in trouble for it. They never got taken out of the movie they were in.”
Lovato did not reveal who she told at the time. She said she was speaking publicly “because everyone that that happens to should absolutely speak their voice if they can and feel comfortable doing so”.