Hayden Panettiere on being in an abusive relationship: ‘it’s OK to ask for help’

Hayden Panettiere is covering People Magazine this week, where she opened up about her battle with addiction and her relationship with her daughter Kaya, seven. Hayden battled postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter in late 2014 (which she was open about at the time) and self medicated for that. She had a particularly hard time with PPD because her own experience mirrored the role she was playing on Nashville.

The last we heard about Hayden she was in an off-on abusive relationship with her ex, Brian Hickerson. In 2021 Brian plead no contest to felony abuse of Hayden after multiple domestic incidents. He served less than two weeks in jail and they were seen out together again a few weeks later. Brian told E! around that time that “the first step in my recovery as an abuser is making amends.” There was video this March of Hayden and Brian in a bar fight with other people. Hayden spoke about fight, saying it was not as bad as it looked. As for her relationship with Brian, she said she’s trying to forgive and People states that they’re “friends.” Given Hayden’s statements and the careful way that part is worded, I’m worried that she’s still with Brian, but the People article says she’s single. Here’s some of what Hayden told People and there’s a video of her on People’s site.

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.”

Following the 2020 arrest, Panettiere issued a statement that read: “I am coming forward with the truth about what happened to me in the hope that my story will empower others in abusive relationships to get the help they need and deserve. I am prepared to do my part to make sure this man never hurts anyone again.”

Panettiere reflects on the statement today, saying, “I still feel the same way. None of it is OK. 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.”

Yet last March, Panettiere and Hickerson were together in Los Angeles when they were involved in a public altercation with another group at an L.A. hotel. “It was not my best behavior, it was not anyone’s best behavior,” she says of the incident. “But it was not as insane as it was made to look, and everyone is OK.”

She says she reconnected with Hickerson as friends despite their turbulent past together. “None of it is OK, and I want to make sure that everybody knows that,” she says 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.”

Panettiere is sober, single and focused on her future.

[From People]

Hayden also talked about her daughter Kaya, seven, whom she sent to live overseas with her father, the incredible boxer and person Wladimir Klitschko, a few years ago. (I believe Kaya lives in Germany with the Klitschko family. Wladimir has been in Ukraine fighting along with his brother, Vitali, the mayor of Kyiv. They were last at the NATO summit in Madrid.) Hayden visits Kaya when she can and says that they’re still close. Hayden got so much hate for giving up custody of her daughter. I didn’t make that the focus of this post for that reason. I think she made the best choice for her daughter given her situation.

Hayden is going to be reprising her role as Kirby Reed in the sixth Scream installment, coming out 2023. It’s so great to see her sober and working again and I’d love to see her in more roles. It sounds like she’s still with that POS Brian though, and that makes me worry about her. On a superficial note, she looks so much like Cameron Diaz now it’s crazy.

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15 Responses to “Hayden Panettiere on being in an abusive relationship: ‘it’s OK to ask for help’”

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  1. WiththeAmerican says:

    Yeah sounds like she’s still with him. You don’t blow off abuse and say you’ve forgiven it when you’ve moved on. Because a big part of growth is accepting that what happened was not okay. She’s saying the words but her actions negate. Plus *real* therapy for abusers is notoriously unsuccessful and involves accountability that doesn’t suggest it was something that should be forgiven.

    I hope she finds her way out, she has a lot of talent.

    • Lola says:

      As you said, she’s saying words her actions negate. Sometimes, some people choose to live in a certain way that doesn’t comply with their public image, then they have to find an explanation for it when it spills into the public eye somehow. This has been the case numerous times now over many years, dating many years back before this current person.

      • Noo says:

        @lola is it really a choice or unresolved childhood trauma? She was in the business since age 6 and there was intimate partner abuse in her own family. I saw rumours about her possibly having been a victim of abuse as a child as well. It seems Hayden has overcome a great deal to be where she is in her life today. Hopefully the healing will continue for her.

      • Lola says:

        Let me be clear that I am not referring to anyone specifically. However, if an adult seeks out a certain type of consensual relationship which will leave them with a lot of bruises (and has sought out that kind of relationship repeatedly over decades), but they make their living on a girl-next-door image, sometimes, they will have to figure out how to explain those bruises.

  2. Lola says:

    The way she’s written about and portrayed in these relationships is so weird. I have no idea what’s going on in this current one, but past ones were definitely not what they were portrayed to be. She was not what she was portrayed to be either. It goes all the way back to when she was with Milo Ventimiglia a lifetime ago, even back before that to her relationship with her parents. I don’t think it’s permitted to write about it here except to say there is a certain kind of consensual relationship being sought out that goes against her public image…… anyone can google back to that Ventimiglia relationship, to Klitschko…. and further back than that.

  3. MaryContrary says:

    I feel really sorry for her. It’s hard to un-do so much trauma.

  4. Zapp Brannigan says:

    She needs some Lundy Bancroft in her life stat, someone send her a copy of “Why does he do that” or maybe “The Mind of the Intimate Male Abuser: How He Gets into Her Head” by Don Hennessy.

    • Lee says:

      “Why he does that” helped me a lot after I left an abusive relationship. I think the thing many people don’t realize until it happens to them is how easy it is to excuse abusive behavior and blame yourself. Like, well, I DID forget to get X at the store, and I WAS five minutes late. Etc etc. Sure, don’t be late, but that doesn’t mean you need to be physically or emotionally abused. A normal partner might be frustrated or irritated, not unhinged and screaming.

      • kirk says:

        Lee – sorry you went through that. Also understand from personal experience. Hoping that you, and Hayden, can successfully replace the groomers with more supportive relationships.

  5. Mia4s says:

    “ Panettiere is sober, single and focused on her future”

    Hmmmmm. Hmmmm, I say.

    Well that’s good if true, but ever since her comments (years ago now) minimizing and blaming the police when her father was arrested for hitting her mother it’s been clear she is very much a “say what is needed to protect the image” celebrity. I think she’s been conditioned to that (hooray for child stardom, ugh). So this sounds positive, but we shall see.

    I think the situation with her daughter was what most suspected. She was not capable of being a full and present mother, so this was the best choice of a bad situation. Very sad, but for the best.

  6. girl_ninja says:

    I hope that she IS getting healthy, she has been through so much and deserves happiness. I honestly side eyed Milo Ventimiglia when he and Hayden were dating back in the day. I just think that she had many people take advantage of her. I really hope she is rid of the abusive relationship she was in.

  7. Ariel says:

    People are so hard on a woman giving up custody- because mothers aren’t supposed to/allowed to do that.
    I think it is brave and selfless. She knew she wasn’t going to be a good parent to that little girl, and she let the child be in a better situation. A situation with stability.

  8. molly says:

    Given how it takes an average of seven tries for women to leave abusive relationships, I have zero doubt she’s still in Brian’s orbit. She seems in a good place now, so I hope she stays healthy and well and eventually removes him from her life forever.

  9. Nicegirl says:

    Thank you

  10. Kristin says:

    So I clicked on the link for the previous article about Hayden giving her ex full custody of their daughter and I looked through the comments and, wow… just, wow. I cannot believe how disgustingly judgmental and hateful people here were in their comments toward Hayden. She’s a former child star with addiction issues who was suffering postpartum depression and what else? Oh yeah, and abusive boyfriend. That’s ALOT to deal with any given time (shit, even just dealing with ONE of those circumstances would be enough, let alone all of them at the same time!) and it seems to me she was doing what was best for her daughter which was to get her out of any potential harm’s way and/or any toxic environment she might be exposed to while Hayden was trying to stay above water. But the way people in their comments went for the jugular and trashed her and called her a selfish, horrible mother was just so fucking disappointing to read. I love this site because the veteran commentators can usually be counted on to deliver well thought-out arguments and opinions and it just sucked to see the typically fair-minded people here fail to their own worst biases and snap judgments. For anyone here who wrote such a hateful comment, I hope you take a moment to reflect on what Hayden has been through and continues to go through to get better, and perhaps try and recognize that she was and is (along with her ex) doing the best she can as a loving parent. And if nothing else, try to refrain from being a judgmental asshole.