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John and Lorena Bobbitt

John and Lorena Bobbitt

John Wayne Bobbitt and Lorena Bobbitt (née Gallo) were an American couple married on June 18, 1989 whose relationship made world-wide headlines in 1993 when, after years of being allegedly raped (he was acquitted on the rape charge), beaten, and sodomized by her husband, Lorena cut off his penis with a knife while he was asleep in bed. The penis was subsequently surgically reattached. Years after the incident, John was convicted of beating two other women and of theft.[1]


The incident occurred June 23, 1993 in Manassas, Virginia. Lorena Bobbitt stated in a court hearing that, after coming home that evening, her husband raped her. After he then went to sleep, she got out of bed and went to the kitchen for a drink of water. She then grabbed an eight-inch carving knife on the kitchen counter, returned to their bedroom, pulled back the bed-sheets and cut off his penis.[2]

After this, she left the apartment with the severed appendage and drove away in her car. After a while driving and struggling to steer with one hand, she threw it out the window into a roadside field. She eventually stopped and called 9-1-1, telling them what had happened and where the penis could be found. John Bobbitt's penis was found after an exhaustive search, and after being washed with Hibiclens antiseptic and packed in saline ice, it was reattached in the hospital where he was treated. The operation took nine and a half hours.[3] John went on to star in two pornographic films in the 1990s,[4] and claims his penis is "back to normal".[5]

Arrest and trial

When she was arrested the night of June 23, she told the police, "He always have orgasm [sic], and he doesn't wait for me ever to have orgasm. He's selfish."[6] This conversation with Detective Peter Wentz was tape-recorded, and the transcript was read later in the trial by Mary Grace O'Brien, the Prince William County Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney prosecuting Lorena.[7]

During the trial, the couple revealed details of their volatile relationship and the events that led to the assault. Lorena stated that John sexually, physically, and emotionally abused her during their marriage. She said that he flaunted his infidelities and forced her to have an abortion. Her defense attorneys, who included the defense lawyer Blair D. Howard, maintained that his constant abuse caused her to eventually "snap" because she was suffering from clinical depression and a possible bout of post traumatic stress disorder due to the abuse.[2] John denied the allegations of abuse; however, when he was cross-examined by Howard, his statements often conflicted with known facts, severely weakening the prosecution's case.[2]

Lorena testified that John had raped her and physically battered her on multiple occasions prior to the evening of the severing of his penis, that they lacked financial stability, and that he stole her earnings and spent the proceeds. Both the prosecution and defense sides conceded that he had demonstrated a history of abuse toward her and that this abuse created a context for the assault. Expert witnesses for both the prosecution and the defense testified that "he had mentally and physically battered her; that the abuse was escalating; and that, by 1993, she lived in constant fear of him."[8] The defense strategy emphasized her action as being a mix of self-defense and temporary insanity constituting an "irresistible impulse" due to the history and pattern of abuse and rape. One expert witness testified that "Lorena believed and was immobilized by John's threat, 'I will find you, whether we're divorced or separated. And wherever I find you, I'll have sex with you whenever I want to.'"[9]

John Bobbitt was later acquitted of rape.[10] He had multiple versions of what had happened that evening in question, relating at various times to police and to the court that "they had not had sex; that Lorena had tried to initiate sex, but he had been too tired; that they had had sex, but he had slept through it; and that the sex had been consensual."[11]

After seven hours of deliberation, the jury found Lorena not guilty due to insanity causing an irresistible impulse to sexually wound John. As a result, she could not be held liable for her actions.[12] Under state law, the judge ordered her to undergo a 45-day evaluation period at Central State Hospital, located in Petersburg, Virginia, after which she would be released. In 1995, after six years of marriage, John and Lorena divorced.



After the incident, John attempted to generate money from his renown by forming a band, The Severed Parts, to pay his mounting medical and legal bills, although the band was unsuccessful and failed to generate enough money.[13] In September 1994, he appeared in the adult film John Wayne Bobbitt: Uncut, in another attempt to make money.[14] In 1996, he appeared in another adult film, Frankenpenis (also known as John Wayne Bobbitt's Frankenpenis).[15]

In 1994, he was charged with striking Kristina Elliott, a 21-year-old former exotic dancer he met while in Las Vegas on a publicity tour. On August 31, 1994, he was convicted of battery and sentenced to 15 days in jail (75% of the original 60-day sentence was suspended). "I firmly believe you have an attitude problem," Justice of the Peace William Jansen told Bobbitt. "Your attitude problem is caused by your drinking."[16]

On August 10, 1998,[17] he appeared on the World Wrestling Federation's Monday Night Raw television program, where he was featured with Val Venis.[18][19] Not long after, he moved to Las Vegas, Nevada where he worked as a bartender, limo driver, mover, pizza delivery driver, and tow-truck operator. He also had a stint serving at a wedding chapel as a minister of a Universal Life Church there.[2][20]

In 1999, Bobbitt received probation for his role in a theft at a store in Nevada. In 2003, he was sentenced to prison for violating his probation for the 1999 theft, after he was arrested on battery charges involving his then-wife, Joanna Ferrell. He was again twice arrested on charges of battery against Ferrell in 2004, and that same year, he filed for divorce under the name John W. Ferrell, which he had been using during his marriage with Ferrell.[21]

In 2014, he was severely injured when he broke his neck in a vehicular accident in Buffalo, New York.[22]


After the trial, Lorena attempted to keep a low profile and reverted to the use of her birth name, Gallo. In October 1996, she made a visit to her native Ecuador, where she met with then president Abdalá Bucaram for the official dinner. Some time later the two would baptize a child as a godmother and a godfather.[23] Bucaram was criticized for inviting Lorena to the dinner.[24]

In December 1997, she made news when she was charged with assault for punching her mother, Elvia Gallo, as they watched television.[25] She was eventually acquitted of assault, and her mother continued to live with her. In 2007, she was working at a beauty salon in Washington, D.C.[26] and in the same year founded Lorena's Red Wagon organization, which helps prevent domestic violence through family-oriented activities.[27]

In June 2008, she appeared on the CBS News program The Early Show, where she talked about her life since the incident. In the interview, she said that she was in a long-term relationship with Dave Bellinger and that they had a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter.[28]

Joint public appearance

Although Lorena told Oprah Winfrey in April 2009 that she had no interest in talking to John,[27] they appeared together on the show The Insider in May 2009. It was their first meeting since their divorce.[29] On the show, he apologized to her for the way he treated her during their marriage, and he claimed that he still loved her because he continued to send her Valentine's Day cards and flowers.[30]

The Bobbitt case brought attention to the issue of domestic violence and marital rape. Within days of the incident, anti-domestic violence advocates and some feminist groups rallied around Lorena, citing the alleged continuous abuse she suffered at the hands of John that caused her to attack him, albeit in an unusual and violent manner.[31]

Media attention surrounding the case resulted in national debate and also sparked a flurry of jokes, limericks, T-shirt slogans, advertising gimmicks, as well as Howard Stern having John Bobbitt as a guest on his 1993 New Year's Eve special and fundraising $250,000 to defray the outstanding costs of his surgery. MCI had also unknowingly been drawn into the fray by running a TV commercial a couple of weeks after the incident advertising how the Bobbitts, a family from Siasconset, Massachusetts (of no relation to the Bobbitts of Manassas, Virginia) saved by switching to MCI, causing jokes to be made of "when they cut off your service, they mean it".[32]

Shortly after the incident, episodes of "Bobbittmania", or copycat crimes, were reported, although the incidents were generally self-inflicted wounds, or accidents.[33] The name Lorena Bobbitt eventually became synonymous with penis removal. The terms "Bobbittized punishment" and "Bobbitt Procedure" gained social recognition.[34] The Bobbit worm, which attacks its prey with scissor-like jaws, is named after the case.[35]

In February 2019, Amazon released Lorena, a four-part docu-series produced by Jordan Peele about the incident, which features interviews with both Lorena and John.[36]

See also

  • Catherine Kieu

  • Lin and Xie case

  • Penis transplantation

  • Sada Abe

  • Brigitte Harris case


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