The former Nashville star hopes her story "will empower others in abusive relationships to get the help they need"

By Julie Jordan
July 22, 2020 08:30 AM
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Hayden Panettiere is taking a stand.

After the former Nashville star, 30, told authorities in California that her ex-boyfriend Brian Hickerson, 31, had been violent towards her, he was arrested on July 16 in Los Angeles on eight charges alleging abusive incidents from May 2019 to January 2020, all of which Hickerson has denied.

“Hayden was finally ready to change her life for the better,” an insider tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. “She is now surrounded by people who care about her and not someone who tries to control her and prey on her weaknesses.”

  • For more about Hayden Panettiere, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
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Hayden Panettiere and Brian Hickerson

According to a criminal indictment, the allegations against Hickerson include four felony charges of corporal injury on a spouse/cohabitant; two felony charges of assault with a deadly weapon; a misdemeanor charge of battery on a spouse/cohabitant; and a felony charge of dissuading a witness from prosecuting a crime. Hickerson pleaded not guilty, and bail was set at $320,000; he has not responded to requests for comment.

hayden panettiere
Hayden Panettiere
| Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Wireimage

“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 said in a statement. “I am prepared to do my part to make sure this man never hurts anyone again.”

Panettiere, who has been undergoing treatment for alcohol abuse issues, has been “focused on healing, sobriety and recovery,” says a source close to her. “This is a turning point for her.”

Hayden Panettiere
Hayden Panettiere
| Credit: Hayden Panettiere/Twitter

After splitting two years ago from former fiancé Wladimir Klitschko (with whom she shares daughter Kaya, 5), Panettiere was linked to Hickerson, an aspiring actor from South Carolina, in August 2018 — but their relationship turned turbulent.

He was arrested in L.A. on a charge of domestic violence against Panettiere the following May, but the case was dismissed when she wouldn’t testify. In February Hickerson was charged with domestic battery and interference with police in Jackson, Wyoming, after he allegedly punched the actress, per court documents obtained by TMZ. He pleaded not guilty.

Now, Panettiere wants to rebuild her life. “Self-esteem and confidence work wonders on those who have been dragged down by abusive people and users,” says the insider. “I hope those days have ended for Hayden.”