Hayden Panettiere admits she struggled with her dad's 2008 arrest for felony domestic violence against her mother.
"I don't know that I dealt with it any specific way," the Heroes star tells the July issue of Seventeen magazine. "I mean, it's hard enough going through it personally within your family, let alone when the entire world knows about it."
Alan was charged with misdemeanor battery in September 2008 after allegedly hitting wife Lesley in the cheek, leaving a visible bruise. He later called the incident, which sheriffs said involved alcohol, a "big misunderstanding."
Continues Panettiere, 19: "It put my dad in this light that is so not him. You know your mind goes to: 'He abuses, he beats his wife.' For my dad to have that reputation now -- which is so not who he is -- kills me."
The actress says she's fiercely protective of her parents.
"I know that I'm strong enough to deal. I'm less concerned about myself. But when it involves my family or people I care about, I mean, I'll fly off the handle for my family," she says.
Panettiere also opens up about her love life. After splitting from costar Milo Ventimiglia, 31, in February, she was most recently spotted with British TV host Steve Jones, 32, in Cannes.
"I don't know how to date," she admits. "I'm not good at learning that sometimes you don't like someone in that way -- and figuring out how to deal with that. Because I don't want to hurt his feelings.
"Right now, I'm just enjoying having fun," she goes on. It's when your not looking for anything that something winds up coming along, whether it's a best friend or a guy."