Country singer Jana Kramer has been in the spotlight a lot lately. Just days after announcing her separation from her third husband, Michael Caussin, Kramer revealed that she was joining Dancing with the Stars.
Now Kramer is putting herself out there again by opening up about the very personal details of her first marriage. In a new interview with PEOPLE, the singer shares terrifying details of the domestic abuse she suffered at the hands of her first husband, Michael Gambino. The abuse eventually led to Gambino serving prison time for attempted murder.
“I met Mike when I was 19 at a Coffee Bean in L.A. He was a smooth-talker, very charming, intriguing and obviously older,” Kramer shared of Gambino who was 17 years her senior. “At the time, I liked that. I felt protected.”
The two married in 2004 after only two weeks of dating and things quickly went sour.
“He’d come home at 3 o’clock in the morning and pick me up out of bed, throw me onto the ground and start yelling and hitting,” says Kramer, who used makeup to hide bruises.
“Then the next morning he’d be like, ‘Hey, baby,’ as if nothing had happened.”
Kramer, whose acting career was just taking off, was regularly choked and threatened. “When I said, ‘I can’t do this anymore’ he sent me a photo of my dogs on the freeway and said, ‘I’m going to let them go if you don’t come home’,” she says. “He’d kick me out of the house, I’d sleep in the car and then that next morning I’d be with him in bed again.”
“My self-confidence went down each time he was abusive.”
On August 6, 2005, Gambino went too far when he choked her and left her unconsciousness and bleeding on the gravel outside their Los Angeles home.
“I remember praying that night, ‘Please, just take me away, I don’t want to be here anymore’,” says Kramer.
Gambino was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to six years in prison. He was released in 2010 and committed suicide two years later.
Kramer confessed to PEOPLE that she is embarrassed of her past and afraid to share her story, but hopes that her experience will help other women who find themselves in abusive situations.
“If I can help one person, I’ll be thankful for what happened – and I can move forward.”
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