Amanda Peterson’s Family Speaks Out About Her Past Rape, Struggle With Drugs

By May Wilkerson 09/18/15

Peterson's family also revealed her struggle with mental illness.

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The family of Amanda Peterson, who died from an overdose in July, has spoken out about the actress’ rape in her teens that they believe triggered her long struggle with addiction.

Peterson was 15 when she was raped by a man nearly twice her age, her family said during their appearance on The Doctors on Monday. They believe the trauma is part of what led to her substance abuse and eventual death at age 43 from an accidental morphine overdose.

“I think for her to carry this secret, this burden of this assault, must have just been overwhelming,” said her sister Anne-Marie. “She felt so ashamed, she didn’t want people to know.” Her father, James, said that the incident transformed Amanda, “after that she became more defensive, less trusting, some of the sparkle was gone.” Her mother, Sylvia, said the rape “affected her forever.”

Additionally, the actress may have struggled with mental illness. Her father acknowledged that she had “some bipolar problems” and went through “a pretty dark period” when she was living in Hollywood and not getting work.

Peterson was known for her role as Cindy Mancini in the iconic comedy Can’t Buy Me Love (1987) before retiring from acting at age 23. Her record indicates a long struggle with drug and alcohol abuse. Between 2000 and 2012, she was arrested at least six times for drug possession, assault, and public intoxication.

The coroner reported she died from the “morphine effect” because she was “naive to opiates.” She was found to have overdosed on a cocktail of prescription drugs that included anti-anxiety drug benzodiazepine, anti-psychosis drug phenothiazine, and six times the regular dose of gabapentin.

At the end of the segment, the show’s co-host Travis Stork warned people of the dangers of prescription drugs. “The drugs that were in [Amanda Peterson’s] system were prescription medicines,” he said. “It’s not just a Hollywood problem, this is a problem throughout this country.” He noted that prescription drugs are responsible for more deaths in the United States each year than heroin and cocaine combined.

The Peterson family said their purpose for appearing on the show was to “warn and counsel” families who may have a loved one struggling with substance abuse or addiction. “We are among perhaps millions who have gone through these problems,” said James Peterson. “You have to be very well attuned to what your children are doing, what they’re saying. We all have to be more aware, and that doesn’t diminish your love.”

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.

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