By Amanda Wicks

Jana Kramer’s first marriage was a painful, terrifying experience that the country singer has rarely discussed.

Related: Watch Jana Kramer’s ‘Said No One Ever’ Video

Speaking with People in a new interview, Kramer discussed meeting her first husband Michael Gambino when she was 19 years old. He was 17 years older, but that was part of the attraction. “At the time, I liked that,” she admitted. “I felt protected.” The two wed shortly after meeting each other in an L.A. coffee shop, but things took a violent turn just two weeks later.

Gambino’s frequent bouts of jealousy turned abusive. “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,” she explained. When she tried to leave, he would threaten her, one time sending her a photo of her two dogs on the freeway with a message about letting them loose if she didn’t return.

On August 6, 2005, Gambino choked Kramer into unconsciousness and left her bleeding in their driveway. “I remember praying that night, ‘Please, just take me away, I don’t want to be here anymore’,” she said. He was later arrested and sentenced to six years in prison. He was released in 2010, but committed suicide two years later.

Kramer decided to open about her experience now because she’s hoping it helps other victims of domestic abuse. “If I can help one person, I’ll be thankful for what happened – and I can move forward,” she said.

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