'Lorena': Looking back at the sensational Bobbitt trial that launched a 'battle of the sexes' in America

After enduring 5 years of John Wayne Bobbitt's physical and mental abuse, Lorena, who now goes by Lorena Gallo, had received enough and took matters into her own hands, literally


                            'Lorena': Looking back at the sensational Bobbitt trial that launched a 'battle of the sexes' in America

The Lorena Bobbitt trial from 1994 was about how a domestic abuse victim was able to throw the problem into the spotlight and introduce the citizens of the world to marital rape and abuse. After enduring five years of John Wayne Bobbitt's physical and mental abuse, Lorena, who now goes by Lorena Gallo, had received enough and took matters into her own hands, literally.

She went to have a drink of water one night after John came back home drunk and allegedly raped her and that is when she spotted a 12-inch knife on the kitchen counter. Lorena proceeded to take the knife, go up to the bedroom, and slice off her abusive husband's penis. She then drove in a panic to her boss Janna's home after having thrown the severed appendage out the window on to the grass, close to a 7-Eleven.

The night of the incident was only the start of this crime, which became the butt of jokes for many years to follow, but also highlighted the plight of domestically abused victims in the country. Very soon, a point-of-contention divide between men and women took center stage.

Lorena Bobbitt waves to cheering demonstrators as she leaves the Prince William County Courthouse in Manassas, VA, 18 January 1994 after the fifth day of testimony in her malicious wounding trial (Source: J. DAVID AKE/AFP/Getty Images)
Lorena Bobbitt waves to cheering demonstrators as she leaves the Prince William County Courthouse in Manassas, VA, 18 January 1994 after the fifth day of testimony in her malicious wounding trial (Source: J. DAVID AKE/AFP/Getty Images)

Women, largely, championed Lorena for being the face of the abused and the voice that let the rest of the world know that not all women were living blissful lives. Men, for the most part on the other hand, could not believe a woman had robbed one of their own of the only thing that apparently defined a man in the 90s - his penis.

It didn't matter that it was successfully re-attached in a surgery that took nine hours, nor did it matter that he went on to become a porn star for some time. What seemed to matter for the men was the fact she cut his penis off. The whole case became a joke too, after the initial horror of what happened wore off.

Women, however, weren't going to let this slide easily. The fact of the matter remained, Lorena was violently abused by her husband and raped repeatedly for five years before she finally had enough. Phyllis D. Barkhurst, the first vice president of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, an organization based in Denver, said in an interview at that time: "This is a tragedy, not a comedy."

Christel L. Nichols, who is the executive director of the House of Ruth, a Washington agency that shelters women and children involved in domestic crises, said even though Lorena decided to take the unusual route to highlight her abuse, the kind of violence she described was common at the time. Nichols said: "These horrible things go on all day, every day. These were two people who were extremely troubled for a long time. This isn't the kind of thing that happens out of the blue."

John Wayne Bobbitt points toward photographers as he arrives at the Prince William County Courthouse in Manassas, VA 18 January 1994 for the fifth day of his wife Lorena's trial for malicious wounding (Source: JENNIFER YOUNG/AFP/Getty Images)
John Wayne Bobbitt points toward photographers as he arrives at the Prince William County Courthouse in Manassas, VA 18 January 1994 for the fifth day of his wife Lorena's trial for malicious wounding (Source: JENNIFER YOUNG/AFP/Getty Images)

Records from the time the couple was married also show both Lorena and John had called the authorities during domestic disputes, and Lorena also said she had requested a restraining order against her husband just two days before the attack took place.

Gregory L. Murphy, John's lawyer, denied the man was responsible for what happened to him. During the trial, he argued: "This was all contrived to strike back at him after he said he was going to leave her. She was acting out a fantasy that's in the psyche of many women."

For men, this whole issue was definitely not something they wanted to put too much thought into. Some say that Lorena overreacted, no matter how nasty the provocation from his side, while others consider the slicing as symbolic. Mel Feit, the executive director of a men's rights group, the National Center for Men, which is based in Brooklyn, said: "In the battle of the sexes, this was like stealing the other team's mascot. This is the result of feminists teaching women that men are natural oppressors."

Amazon's docuseries on Lorena, will premiere February 15, a day after Valentine's Day.