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What Demi Lovato's brave admittance to being sexually assaulted teaches us about consent

During her new docuseries, Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil, which premiered a the SXSW Film Festival Tuesday, Lovato revealed she lost her virginity after being raped as a teenager.

What Demi Lovato's brave admittance to being sexually assaulted teaches us about consent

Demi Lovato performs onstage during the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.

(Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Demi Lovato has never shied away from being her authentic self. She's continuously shared her struggles with addiction, mental health and her eating disorder, advocating for numerous individuals experiencing those same issues in the process. Another issue Lovato is shedding light on is sexual assault.

During her new docuseries, Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil, which premiered a the SXSW Film Festival Tuesday, Lovato revealed she lost her virginity after being raped as a teenager.

"When I was a teenager, I was in a very similar situation. I lost my virginity in a rape," the songstress shared. "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."

Lovato was only 15 at the time.

"We were hooking up, but I said, 'Hey this is not going any further. 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," Lovato explained. "I internalized it. I told myself it was my fault because I still went in the room with him. I still hooked up with him."

Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil | Official Trailer

At the time, Lovato mentioned she was "part of that Disney crowd" who publicly vowed to wait until marriage before having sex. Because of that, Lovato said she was afraid to speak out, which ultimately contributed to her eating disorder and harming herself to cope.

"I didn't have the romantic first time with anybody. That was not it for me, and that sucked, then I had to see that person all the time," she explained. "So, I stopped eating and coped in other ways — cutting, throwing up, whatever. My bulimia got so bad that I started throwing up blood for the first time."

Lovato went on to say the individual who assaulted her never suffered any consequences for their actions. Instead, they were rewarded with a role in a new film. She also added that her Christian upbringing played a part in her remaining silent.

This, my friends, is the narrative Hollywood has created for women who speak out. Ultimately, they're undermined for standing up to a system that would rather silence them than have them speak their truth. But here's the thing, Lovato wasn't yet a woman: she was just a child.

Rather than being heard by an industry that should've protected her in the first place, Lovato was ignored and turned away. This is yet another reminder that male violence seeps heavily into every major institution, and women are the ones left to pay the price.

In addition to her assault as a teenager, Lovato also revealed she was assaulted by her drug dealer during the night of her 2018 overdose.

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"I didn't just overdose – I also was taken advantage of," Lovato says. "I've had my fair share of sexual trauma throughout childhood, teenage years. And when they found me, I was naked, I was blue. I was literally left for dead after he took advantage of me" Lovato added that while she remembers flashes of the encounter, she wasn't in "any state of mind to make a consensual decision."

Consent should never be viewed as a blurred line. In fact, it should always remain straight and visible. But the thing is, so many individuals have a distorted image of what consent is. Therein lies the issue. At the end of the day, consent should always be an ongoing system of discussing boundaries and what you're comfortable with.

If someone is passed out or intoxicated to the point where they can't coherently make those decisions, then the option for sex is immediately removed off the table.

It is a two-sided conversation among two individuals. If only one person is participating in the conversation, that's when the problem arises. Furthermore, schools, as well as parents, need to do better in actively engaging children in conversations surrounding consent. When we change the conversation, only then can we change the culture.

My heart truly breaks for Lovato. She was failed by an industry who should've protected her. For that, it owes her an apology.

We shouldn't be asking what women can do differently. Women are not the problem. It's men who need to change. They need to hold their counterparts accountable for their toxic behavior, and support women when they speak out against perpetrators instead of undermining them.

Demi Lovato: Dancing With The Devil will be available beginning on March 23 on YouTube.

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