The US-born singer reveals that she was raped by a man she encountered at a Los Angeles club where Rivera regularly performed as she was trying to get her career started.
Rivera, who died last December in a plane crash in northern Mexico, says she never told anyone about the assault because she wanted to preserve her identity as a tough rebel "who never lost a fight".
Other bombshells concern a suicide attempt at 19 and a secret lover 10 years her junior Rivera describes as a man who loved her "for the passionate, down, crazy, gangsta woman I was when the spotlight was off".
At the time of her death, Rivera was estranged from her third husband, professional baseball player Esteban Loaiza.
"This is a story of triumph despite many obstacles, much pain," the singer's sister, Rosie Rivera, told People en Espanol.