Finding peace. Hayden Panettiere opened up about surviving an abusive relationship with her on-and-off boyfriend of four years, Brian Hickerson.

“It was a very dark and complicated time in my life,” the Scream 4 actress, 32, told People about her relationship with Brian, 33, in an interview published on Wednesday, July 6. “But a lot of women go through what I went through, and I want people to know it’s OK to ask for help.”

Hayden and Brian began dating in 2018. At the time, she was dealing with a painful addiction to alcohol and opioids.

Noting that she wanted to “party” when her six-year run on Nashville came to an end, Hayden said, “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.”

Troubles in their relationship became public knowledge in May 2019 when Brian was charged with domestic violence and she was issued a protective order following a violent incident. However, the charges were later dropped.

Hayden Panettiere Reflects on Surviving ‘Dark and Complicated’ Abusive Relationship: ‘I’m Trying to Live in a Place of Forgiveness’

They rekindled their romance months later, and Brian was arrested on eight domestic violence charges in July 2020. He pled no contest to two felony counts of injuring a partner during a July 2021 hearing, while the rest of the charges were dropped. The South Carolina native spent a total of 13 days in jail.

Following Brian’s 2020 arrest, Hayden issued a statement promising to “empower others in abusive relationships to get the help they need and deserve.” She added, “I am prepared to do my part to make sure this man never hurts anyone again.”

During her recent interview with People, the Heroes alum ​​reflected on the statement. “I still feel the same way. None of it is OK,” she said. “But I want to make sure that everybody knows that each person who goes through something like that, they’re on their own journey. No two things are exactly alike.”

In March 2022, Hayden and Brian found themselves in more trouble when they were involved in a brawl outside of Sunset Marquis in West Hollywood. “It was not my best behavior, it was not anyone’s best behavior,” she told People about the incident. “But it was not as insane as it was made to look, and everyone is OK.”

While the exes are no longer romantically involved, Hayden said she is now friends with Brian. “None of it is OK, and I want to make sure that everybody knows that,” the Ice Princess actress said of his behavior. “But I am open to people who are willing to get help and make amends. He’s gone to treatment and done his time. And I’m trying to live in a place of forgiveness.” 

“I think [Brian] has done his time and was willing to get help. I think about the things I have done in my life that people forgave me for. Making amends is a really important thing that you learn in treatment,” she added. “And it gives you a lot of inner peace.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential support.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Have a tip? Send it to us! Email In Touch at