"I think it affected her forever," Amanda Peterson's mother, Sylvia Peterson, said in a new TV interview

By Kathy Ehrich Dowd
Updated September 15, 2015 11:30 AM

In a new interview, the family of Can’t Buy Me Love star Amanda Peterson, who died in July of an accidental drug overdose at age 43, says the actress was raped at 15 – and feels the incident had an indelible impact on the star.

“She just felt so ashamed. She didn’t want people to know,” her mother, Sylvia Peterson, said on The Doctors during an episode that aired Monday, later adding, “I think it affected her forever.”

Amanda’s father, Dr. James Peterson, said he noticed a marked difference in her personality after the alleged rape.

“After that she became so defensive, less trusting. Some of the sparkle was gone,” he said, adding that “she did have significant bipolar problems.”

Peterson was a teenager when she rose to fame as Cindy Mancini in 1987’s Can’t Buy Me Love alongside Patrick Dempsey. She landed the lead after appearing in several film and TV roles as a child. Sylvia said the assault occurred at “the height of Mandy’s career.”

The actress faded from the spotlight in the 1990s and later struggled with addiction and numerous arrests between 2000 and 2012. She also served a three-month stint in prison in 2005.

Peterson was found dead inside her Greeley, Colorado, home in July. An autopsy deemed the cause of death an accidental morphine overdose, and stated she was abusing prescription drugs to cope with pain from a hysterectomy.

In the new interview, Amanda’s parents say she kept the alleged sexual assault a secret for two years, and that she declined to seek justice against her attacker.

“I engaged an attorney and was ready to go full-press, and Mandy did not want to reveal that,” said James Peterson. “She absolutely refused wanting to press charges.”

Sylvia describes her daughter’s alleged rapist as a man who was “27 years older – double her age” and her voice began to break when she recounts the time Amanda asked to see a counselor, and she didn’t take the request seriously.

“She had said to me one time, ‘Mother, I think I need a therapist.’ And I thought, ‘This is just Hollywood,’ ” she said. “I didn’t say, ‘Why? What’s going one? Let’s find someone.’ I said [dismissively], ‘Oh, that’s a good idea.’ ”

Amanda’s sister, Ann-Marie Peterson, also said on show that her sister kept the burden of her trauma inside.

“She did not tell me about it. She did not talk about it with anyone,” she said. “I think for her to carry this secret, this burden of his assault must have been overwhelming.”