Lorena is very factual about the whole thing. On the night of June 23, 1993, while John Wayne Bobbitt was sleeping, she severed her penis with a kitchen knife, she said, and she drove us around in her Kia that afternoon.
Fifteen minutes later, near Maple Avenue, in a gravel-strewn field, she dumped her severed cock from the driver’s side window. So why did she throw it away? I ask. “Of course I wanted to drive, but I had this thing in my hand so I couldn’t drive, so I threw it away.” Apparently.
Further down is the nail salon where she worked that night and escaped. “I’m not going to take revenge for telling them where it is,” said Lorena Gallo, as she is now known. By “they” she was referring to the police, who, sometime after 4:30 a.m., grabbed themselves by the waist, digging holes for the missing members in the overgrown grass by the roadside. They found it, put it in a Big Bite hot dog box at a nearby 7-11, and took it to the hospital, where it was reattached and repaired for 9 1/2 hours of urology and plastic surgery It’s (almost) fully functional.
These are the details everyone knows, and Lorena recites with the stoicism of the waiter at Tortino Mare, an Italian restaurant, who passed us the specials hours earlier. This is the true story, she said—a young immigrant woman who suffered years of domestic violence, was raped that night by her husband, had nowhere to go, and ended up terrified—and she wanted to talk to me.
Lorena Bobbitt in court in Manassas, Virginia, 1994. Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press
“They just focused on that…” – like her husband was cut and reconnected, and then, years later, had his penis enlarged with surgery. That’s what the media wanted to talk about until now, before the Women’s March and the #MeToo movement, before we evolved as humans. “It’s like they miss everyone or don’t care why I do what I do,” she said.
Of course, Lorena is right, most people forget that John was charged with spousal sexual assault before she was brought to justice for what she did. (He was acquitted.) At the time, marital rape had only recently been criminalized in all 50 states and was nearly impossible to prove in Virginia. Many members of the media, including Ladies’ Home Journal and Gay Talese, commissioned by The New Yorker, questioned whether this was a contradictory statement. (“Wife rape? Who’s really screwed?” read in Penthouse’s previous column.) Al Franken, who plays Stuart Smalley on “Saturday Night Live,” pleads with Lorena to give John’s Penis apologize.
She was right, people forget that the jury found her not guilty due to temporary insanity. We forget how many witnesses testified at her trial that they saw bruises on her arms and neck, that she had called 911 multiple times, and that John had bragged to friends about forcing his wife to have sex. In the years since his trial, he has been arrested several times and served time for violence against two different women. (He denies the allegations.) “It’s about victims and survivors, it’s about what’s going on in the world today,” Lorena told me.
That’s the story she tells in “Lorena,” a four-part documentary produced by Jordan Peele that debuts on Amazon Prime Video on February 15. That’s why she took a break from volunteering for her daughter’s volleyball team and working at her nonprofit, Lorena’s Red Wagon, which helps domestic violence survivors eat lunch, and showed me this sleeping community outside Washington , where everything falls apart.
Lorena Bobbitt, 24, is the injured wife of 26 years, with raven black hair and sad, piercing eyes, with lyrics by Ross and Eminem.
Today, Lorena is a shy, petite, 117-pound woman wearing a black blazer, elegant black stiletto heels, diamond hoop earrings and a Louis Vuitton handbag. (She told me her weight is because she weighed 95 pounds when John said she attacked him in 1993.) Although her body has changed, she is now an aspiring 49-year-old suburban mom with tousled hair , she has the same sad, black, spherical eyes. Although she used her maiden name and the media moved on shortly after the trial (thanks Tonya Harding), people met Lorena in Manassas and soon they found out it was Manassas lorena. “I live here. This is my home. Why does he have the last laugh?” she said when I asked her why she hadn’t moved.