Hayden Panettiere Hopes to 'Empower Others in Abusive Relationships' as Ex Is Charged with Assault

"I am prepared to do my part to make sure this man never hurts anyone again," the actress said in a statement

Hayden Panettiere
Hayden Panettiere. Photo: Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic

Hayden Panettiere is hoping to support victims of domestic abuse with her story.

In a statement to PEOPLE on Friday, the actress addressed the alleged abuse she faced at the hands of her ex-boyfriend Brian Hickerson after he was arrested on Thursday and charged with felony assault stemming from previous incidents.

"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," said Panettiere, 30. "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."

Her attorney Alan Jackson issued the following statement: "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. 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."

Panettiere and Hickerson started dating after reports circulated that she and then-fiancé Wladimir Klitschko had split in August 2018. Panettiere and Klitschko, 44, share daughter Kaya, 5, who lives in Ukraine with her father.

A source close to the actress told PEOPLE that Panettiere is "taking this incredibly brave step as part of her recovery process."

"She has been undergoing successful treatment for alcohol abuse issues and is focused on healing, sobriety and recovery," the source said. "She wants to be honest about what happened in the hope that it may help someone else who is dealing with emotional abuse, intimidation or physical violence."

"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," the source added.

Hayden Panettiere and Brian Hickerson.

A criminal indictment obtained by PEOPLE establishes that Hickerson, 31, was arrested on Thursday on multiple felony charges, including four charges of corporal injury on a spouse/cohabitant, two charges of assault, and one of intimidating a witness, his ex-girlfriend Panettiere.

The charges stem from from alleged incidents between May 2019 and June 2020. His arraignment is scheduled for Monday.

According to a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and inmate records, he currently remains in custody and is being held on a $320,000 bail.

Hickerson did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment. It was not immediately clear whether he has retained an attorney.

The charges come after a source confirmed to PEOPLE on Wednesday that Panettiere had filed to register an out-of-state restraining order against Hickerson in California.

Hickerson was arrested on Valentine's Day in Jackson, Wyoming. He was charged with domestic battery and interference with a cop, both misdemeanor charges in Wyoming, a spokesperson for the Teton County Sheriff's Office told PEOPLE at the time. According to court documents obtained by TMZ, Hickerson allegedly punched Panettiere "with a closed fist on the right side of her face."

Hickerson reportedly pleaded not guilty to the charge in April. A jury trial was reportedly scheduled for September.

In May 2019, Hickerson was arrested on a domestic violence charge and released on bail. According to the felony complaint obtained by PEOPLE at the time, prosecutors had alleged Hickerson "willfully inflicted corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition upon Hayden P."

He pleaded not guilty to one count of felony domestic violence later that month; the case was dismissed at the end of September. A spokesperson for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said at the time, "Our office was unable to proceed because we could not secure a material witness."

If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

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