July 07 2022

Hayden Panettiere is opening up as she never has before about an abusive relationship in her past — and how she says forgiveness is helping her heal.

“It was a very dark and complicated time in my life,” says Panettiere, whose relationship with Brian Hickerson was on and off for nearly four years. “But a lot of women go through what I went through, and I want people to know it’s OK to ask for help.”

Panettiere, 32, and Hickerson, 33, began dating in 2018 while the actress was in the midst of a painful addiction to alcohol and opioids.

“I wanted to party, I wanted to do everything I wasn’t supposed to do,” recalls Panettiere, who had just come off of six seasons of Nashville. “Acting was my life, but I felt so bad about myself that I lost trust in myself. And that is very detrimental. The idea of not having a responsibility was very appealing at the time.”

In May 2019, following an incident with Panettiere, Hickerson was charged with domestic violence and she was issued a protective order, though the charges were eventually dropped. A few months later, the pair were back together and then in July 2020, Hickerson was arrested on eight domestic violence charges. (In 2021 he pled no contest to two felony counts of injuring a partner — the rest of the charges were dropped — and he spent 13 days in jail.)

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