Jana Kramer is a talented country music star and, as we’ve learned from her moves on DWTS, a fabulous dancer. Something many fans didn’t know until recently, though, is that Kramer is also a survivor of domestic violence. In a recent interview with People, the 32-year-old opened up about life with her abusive ex-husband, Michael Gambino, who ultimately went to prison in 2005.
The couple got married in 2004, and during their relationship, Gambino regularly pushed, choked, and verbally harassed Kramer. She told People that “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,” sometimes prompting her to sleep in her car or hide from him in the bushes. “Then the next morning he’d be like, ‘Hey, baby,’ as if nothing had happened.”
One night in the summer of 2005, Gambino choked Kramer until she was unconscious. He then left her alone and bleeding on the gravel outside the couple’s home. “I remember praying that night, ‘Please, just take me away, I don’t want to be here anymore,’” she told the magazine. Gambino was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to six years in prison. He was released in 2010 and committed suicide in 2012.
Kramer revealed to People that she stayed with Gambino longer than she wanted to because she was ashamed. “I literally walked around on eggshells, terrified to tell anybody, because I was so ashamed of the situation I had put myself in,” she shared. “I was like ‘I put myself in this and now I have to figure out how to get out of it, or stay in it and make it better.” To be clear: If you are a survivor or experiencing domestic violence, there is absolutely nothing to ashamed of. Still, Kramer isn’t the only one who has felt this way: Experts have long estimated that thousands of instances of domestic violence go unreported each year due to a sense of shame or stigma. According to the D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence, only about 20 percent of survivors seek professional medical treatment for physical injuries caused by abusers, despite the fact that intimate partner abuse makes up 15 percent of all violent crime in the U.S.
Anyone struggling with feelings of shame over enduring abuse should remind themselves that they are hardly alone in what they’ve gone through. According to the CDC, twenty people per minute in the U.S. are victims of violence at the hands of a partner. Strangulation by an abusive partner is noted as a particularly strong risk factor, as 43 percent of women whose partners have attempted to murder them have been strangled by the partner in the past year. [Studies have also found(http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ndv0312.pdf) that domestic abuse can lead to higher rates of depression in survivors.
Partners who ultimately become abusive can seem perfectly nice in the beginning of a relationship, as abusive behavior often starts slowly and escalates over time. Some common warning signs that a partner may be becoming abusive include discouraging you from spending time with family or friends, acting jealous when you spend time with others, directing verbal put-downs at you, and attempting to prevent you from making your own decisions. Not everyone who exhibits these behaviors will become abusive, and not every abusive partner exhibits these red flags, but they can be helpful indicators in some situations.
These days, Kramer is no longer ashamed of what she’s experienced, and is instead remaining open about her story in hopes of helping other survivors. “I don’t have everything figured out obviously, but I feel like I’m in a place where I don’t have to be ashamed,” she told People. “Even though my past isn’t pretty, it’s shaped me into the person I am today, and now I want to help people. I want to help women out of bad situations.” Best wishes to Kramer as she heals from her past experiences.
If you or someone you know needs help or is in an abusive relationship, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233
You may also like: My Experience With Domestic Violence
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