Hayden Panettiere ‘Taking Back Her Life': Ex Charged With Felonies After Alleged Abuse
Nashville star Hayden Panettiere is stepping forward to tell her side of the story after her former boyfriend, Brian Hickerson, was arrested and charged with multiple felonies stemming from alleged "psychological, emotional and severe physical abuse" that she suffered at his hands over a period of years.
People reports Hickerson was arrested on Thursday (July 16) and charged with four charges of corporal injury on a spouse/cohabitant, two charges of assault and one charge of intimidating a witness. All of the charges derive from incidents that allegedly took place between May 2019 and June 2020. According to charging documents, Panettiere — who played the role of country singer Juliette Barnes on Nashville during its run from 2012-2018 — was the alleged victim in all of the charged incidents.
Hickerson's arrest took place one day after Panettiere filed an out-of-state restraining order against Hickerson in California on Wednesday (July 15), a source tells People.
"I am coming forward with the truth about what happened to me with the hope that my story will empower others in abusive relationships to get the help they need and deserve," Panettiere says in a statement. "I am prepared to do my part to make sure this man never hurts anyone again. I'm grateful for my support system, which helped me find the courage to regain my voice and my life."
Panettiere's well-being has been the source of much speculation since Nashville went off the air in 2018. She ended her engagement with boxer Wladimir Klitschko, who is the father of her daughter, Kaya, in August of 2018, and began a relationship with Hickerson shortly afterward. It wasn't long before the couple began to make headlines amid rumors of alcohol abuse and violence.
In October of 2018, police responded after Hickerson got into an altercation with his father to find Panettiere reportedly "intoxicated" and "frantic" when they arrived. Hickerson was arrested for domestic violence in May of 2019 after police responded to a call from the couple's home in Los Angeles to find redness and marks on Panettiere's body after an argument that escalated into violence. Hickerson was charged with felony domestic violence after that incident, and he faced arrest again after allegedly punching Panettiere in the face on Valentine's Day in February of 2020.
"After suffering for years as the victim of psychological, emotional and severe physical abuse, Hayden Panettiere has begun the process of taking back her life," Panettiere's attorney, Alan Jackson, says in a statement. "Hayden has found the strength and courage to share the truth about her abuse and her abuser, and she intends to assist the prosecution to see that justice is served. As a survivor, she recognizes that her arduous journey of healing has just begun."
A source close to Panettiere tells People the actress has been "undergoing successful treatment for alcohol abuse issues and is focused on healing, sobriety and recovery," and that her coming forward about the alleged abuse is "part of her recovery process."
"This is a turning point for her as she stands up for herself, her family and the many other people impacted by intimate partner violence," that source adds.
A spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department tells People that Hickerson remains in custody on a $320,000 bail, with his arraignment set for Monday (July 20).
See Inside Hayden Panettiere's Quirky Nashville Mansion