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Jana Kramer Breaks Down on Dancing with the Stars as She Opens Up About Her Abusive First Husband

Updated

The Most Memorable Year episode of Dancing with the Stars is always an emotional one, and Jana Kramer‘s story of overcoming the abuse of her first husband was heartbreaking.

The country star chose 2016 as her biggest year thanks to the birth of her daughter Jolie seven months ago.

“I feel like I’m the strongest I’ve been my entire life. [Jolie]’s given me the strength I didn’t know I would have,” Kramer, 32, says in her pre-taped package before her dance.

However, the new mother was not always in such a good place. She recounted how she was in an abusive relationship with her first husband, Michael Gambino, 10 years ago.

“It was the worst time of my life,” she said. “He went to jail for attempted murder on me. It’s been a very heavy secret to hold for so many years. The situation ten years ago broke me. It took having Jolie to piece together every single broken part of me.”

Fighting back tears, Kramer confessed that she would continue to be strong for her daughter.

“I never want my daughter to ever go through the things I went through, or question that she’s not good enough,” she said. “And I want my daughter to know that no man should ever put their hands on her. Because she’s beautiful.”

Jana previously opened up to PEOPLE about surviving her abusive relationship.

She performed a contemporary routine to Martina McBride’s “In My Daughter’s Eyes” with partner Gleb Savchenko, which judge Carrie Ann Inaba called a breakthrough for the One Tree Hill alum.

Following the dance, Kramer got emotional and ran over to Jolie in the audience for a quick cuddle.

Jana & Gleb’s Contemporary – Dancing with the Stars

The country singer opened up for the first time about her history of abuse in PEOPLE this month, confessing that things turned ugly quickly with her ex.

They married when Kramer was just a 19-year-old budding actress, and Gambino was 17 years her senior. Easily angered and frequently jealous, “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 hid bruises with makeup and kept the abuse hidden from family and friends.

“Then the next morning he’d be like, ‘Hey, baby,’ as if nothing had happened.”

There were times where Kramer threatened to kill her, including one such night where she fled out of her house to hide in the bushes before Gambino found her and started choking her.

 

“I remember seeing my grandpa,” whom she prayed to earlier that evening to take her to a happier place, Kramer said in an interview with Good Morning America.

She said she saw her mother, her funeral and her whole life flash before her as she yelled out her mom’s name. “And that’s the last thing I remember,” she said.

Gambino was eventually convicted of premeditated attempted murder. He was released after spending five years in prison, causing Kramer to live in a constant state of fear. That ended when she learned that Gambino had committed suicide two years later.

“I felt bad because my first feeling was relief that he was gone,” she said on Good Morning America. “That I didn’t have to worry about him anymore.”

The singer had a brief second marriage to Johnathon Schaech, followed by a broken engagement to Brantley Gilbert. In May 2015, she wed former NFL tight-end Mike Caussin and the couple welcomed their first child, daughter Jolie, in January 2016. However, rumors of Caussin being unfaithful caused the couple to separate recently.

Kramer is focusing on her daughter, but she hasn’t given up on love.

She said, “I am worthy of a great love and I know that I am truly enough, just me.”