Kennerley, 64, revealed she was regularly physically assaulted by her first husband, New York music producer Jimmy Miller.
"He was very abusive at times and you realise you can't go on like that. But also, it's really hard to get out," she told Seven's Sunday Night.
"You just realise that when somebody is 6-2, crazy off their head - doesn't matter which room you run into, all you do is close your eyes and wait for it to be over, because it's pointless.
"I think eventually you just go, 'I think I will be dead'," she said.
The abuse by Miller - who Kennerley married during her US stint in the late '70s - became so violent that she was forced to pull a gun on him in order to defend herself.
"He always had a .22 rifle above the door in the bedroom so I just remember I was actually quite calm about it - I just went and got the gun, aimed it at him and said, 'I think I will shoot you if you come anywhere near me'," said Kennerley.
She sought support from friend John Kennerley, who helped her leave the abusive marriage.
"When she arrived at my doorstep with a black eye and a bit of a bloody nose, I realised exactly what was happening," recalled John Kennerley.
After a period of hard partying in Manhattan's cocaine-heavy Studio 54 era ("You realise that it's actually really fabulous... I didn't want to be a junkie," Kennerley said about her experiences with the drug), the two returned to Australia and were married in 1984.
"We were the first wedding at the Opera House... It was just really nice," she said about finding love with John.
The TV star, on the show to promote her upcoming autobiography, also touched on the early drama of her legendary screen career.
Kennerley, who was inducted into the Logies Hall of Fame in April, described years of behind-the-scenes tension with former Good Morning Australia co-host Gordon Elliott.
"He really thought he was the ant's pants. He was as arrogant as they would come. But I didn't realise how much he disliked me until the very last year," she said.
"It got quite mean, and he and I probably, other than on camera, didn't speak a word... He was just a 26, 28-year-old boofhead."
Kennerley's autobiography A Bold Life is due to be released in November.
The story 'I think I'll be dead': Kerri-Anne Kennerley reveals past domestic abuse first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.