Demi Lovato Says She's 'Let Go of a Lot of the Anger' from Her Rape at 15: 'I Can Really Heal Now'
In her moving new YouTube Originals docuseries, Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil (out Tuesday), the pop star, 28, opens up for the first time about her experiences with sexual assault.
"Sometimes people hear my music from when I was a teenager and they're like, 'Oh, you were so angry.' I'm like, 'Yeah, and now you guys get to see why I was so angry,'" she tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week's issue.
With the help of her friend and Devil director Michael D. Ratner, Lovato shares heartbreaking details about being raped by someone she knew at 15, including that she never saw consequences for her attacker.
She also reveals in the docuseries that she was "violated" by her drug dealer the night she overdosed in 2018. "That kind of trauma doesn't go away overnight," she says in the series.
"Having put that out in front of the camera and knowing that people have seen that, it's freeing. It's empowering. It's liberating," she says of sharing her story. "And it really lets that anger that was inside of me dissolve. I had let go of a lot of the anger beforehand, but this was kind of just the final send-off, like, okay, I can really heal from this now."
By speaking openly about her experiences, Lovato — who coped as a teen by self-medicating with alcohol and drugs, self-harming, avoiding food and throwing up to the point of seeing blood — hopes to give courage to others who are suffering silently.
Watch the full episode of People Features: Demi Lovato on PeopleTV.com or on the PeopleTV app.
"Now that I've talked about it and now that I know that other people could hear my story, I just hope that it helps people," says the star, whose new album, Dancing with the Devil... The Art of Starting Over, is out April 2. "Sexual abuse is something that people feel is taboo to talk about and to come forward about, but I want to show people that you can, and it's okay."
Reflecting on the guilt, confusion and hurt she felt as a teen, Lovato says she would tell her 15-year-old self — and other young people silently suffering — that healing is possible.
"When the time is right, and when you feel ready, you can talk about it — and you're going to heal from it," says Lovato of the comfort she would share with her younger self. "You're going to feel so much more empowered. You'll be free of the shame."
"It'll be an up-and-down journey, but when you do finally decide to confront that [trauma] and do the work around it — really do the work around it — it's so rewarding and freeing," she continues. "I want not just my 15-year-old self to hear that, but anyone else who's been abused."
Ratner tells PEOPLE the emotional discussion was filmed on their last day of interviews for the docuseries.
"It's her story and she needed to be comfortable with it," says the OBB Media founder, who also directed Justin Bieber's docuseries, Seasons. "She wanted it included, and that is her journey and her prerogative."
In the series Lovato is solemn and at times visibly emotional as she recounts harrowing details about her assaults, and "if you watch that moment carefully, you see Demi working through it," says Ratner. "When that moment happened, we spoke about it right after. She's like, 'I want that in there,' and I think that that's really powerful."
For more on Demi Lovato and her emotional and physical recovery following a terrifying overdose three years ago, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.
If you or someone you know is battling an eating disorder, please contact the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) at 1-800-931-2237 or go to NationalEatingDisorders.org.
- Dolph Lundgren Takes Fiancée Emma Krokdal to Her First Premiere, Hopes to Marry 'Next Year'
- Clea DuVall and Melanie Lynskey on But I'm a Cheerleader's 'Positive Impact' on LGBTQ Audiences
- The Reklaws' Jenna Walker Marries Fiancé Ryan Watson on Beach Where They Met as Kids: 'Love of My Life'
- Nancy Lee Grahn Shows Her Stance on Abortion with Fashion Statement at the Daytime Emmy Awards