On June 23, 1993, Lorena Bobbitt cut off her husband John's penis, leading to a media circus that largely ignored her allegations of marital abuse.
In the early hours of June 23, 1993, a 24-year-old woman named Lorena Bobbitt picked up a kitchen knife, walked into the bedroom where her husband John Bobbitt was sleeping, and cut off his penis.
Then, Lorena took the severed appendage and fled the couple’s home in Manassas, Virginia. By the next day, news of what Lorena had done to John had begun to spread, first among the police officers who searched for his penis in a field, then by the surgeons who reattached the member to his body, and then by the national media that reported on the shocking story.
Men across the country winced in sympathy. Late-night comedians made endless jokes. And in the ensuing criminal trial that captivated the nation, Lorena was cast as a hot-tempered Latina who was enraged by her failing marriage and her husband’s inability to sexually satisfy her.
The truth, however, was more complex.
Lorena Bobbitt’s story is less about her husband’s penis and more about the toxicity of her marriage, the abuse that she allegedly suffered, and the shards of her American Dream.
John And Lorena Bobbitt’s Doomed Romance
Born in 1969 in Bucay, Ecuador, Lorena Bobbitt (née Gallo) grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, where she enjoyed a normal and happy childhood as the eldest of three children. When she was 15, her life changed after her parents gifted her a trip to the United States for her quinceañera.
“I feel like, oh, wow, this is like another planet, another place,” Lorena told Vanity Fair. “I said to myself, ‘Oh my God, this is the place I want to be.'”
At first, Lorena’s entire family tried to emigrate to the U.S. When that proved impossible, Lorena went alone, getting a student visa in 1987. Along the way, she took English classes, worked as a manicurist, and made friends.
Then, in 1988, Lorena met John Bobbitt.
At a club for enlisted men near the Quantico Marine base, in Stafford, Virginia, John and Lorena Bobbitt locked eyes for the first time. Both later admitted that their initial attraction was powerful. John spotted Lorena across the room and, to her delight, asked her to dance.
“I thought John was very handsome,” Lorena recalled in an interview with Vanity Fair. “Blue eyes. A man in a uniform, you know? He was almost like a symbol — a Marine, fighting for the country. I believed in this beautiful country. I was swept off my feet. I wanted my American Dream.”
Lorena and John soon married on June 18, 1989. But Lorena’s “American Dream” quickly became a nightmare. When they had sex for the first time, Lorena felt that John was “rough.” He made decisions without consulting Lorena. And shortly after they wed, John allegedly started hitting her.
According to Biography, Lorena later said that John frequently beat her, raped her, and even forced her to get an abortion when she got pregnant. He also bullied her while she was waiting to have the procedure done.
Meanwhile, John bounced from job to job, creating financial stress, which Lorena says led her to embezzle $7,200 from her employer, nail salon owner Janna Bisutti. “She was the meal ticket and the punching bag,” her lawyer later told Vanity Fair. Bisutti agreed, telling ABC News in 1993 that Lorena “was going to do anything to try to make her marriage work.”
As time went on, the couple’s relationship remained volatile. They split in October 1991, only to reunite just a year later. And less than a year after that, Lorena Bobbitt would become a household name when she cut off John’s penis. So, what exactly happened on June 23, 1993?
Why Lorena Bobbitt Cut Off Her Husband’s Penis
As Lorena Bobbitt tells it, the early morning of June 23rd unfolded much like many others in her marriage: She and John had recently agreed to separate again but were still living together, and when John came home after a night of drinking, he barged into their bedroom and brutally raped Lorena.
“The next thing I remember, he was on top of me,” Lorena, who then weighed just 95 pounds, told Vanity Fair. “I said, ‘No, get off of me. I don’t want to have sex.’ And he wouldn’t get off of me… I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t scream… I couldn’t even move.”
Afterward, Lorena said that she went to their kitchen to get a glass of water. And something seemed to snap inside of her.
“I was thinking many things,” she recalled. “I was thinking the first time he hit me. I was thinking when he raped me. I was thinking so many things, just really quick. I don’t know… I just wanted him to disappear. I just wanted him to leave me alone, to leave my life alone. I don’t want to see him anymore.”
A kitchen knife on the counter caught her eye. She then picked it up, went back to the bedroom, and cut off her sleeping husband’s penis.
As John stumbled out of bed, terrified and bleeding profusely, Lorena fled in her 1991 Mercury Capri, still clutching her husband’s severed appendage. She told ABC News that she didn’t even realize that she was holding it at first.
“I remember I couldn’t make a turn because my hands [had] something on them, and so I tried to turn but then I saw that I have it in my hand,” Lorena explained. “I looked at it and I scream, and… I throw it out of the window.”
Meanwhile, John alerted a friend who’d been staying with the couple to his condition, and the friend quickly took him to a nearby hospital.
Lorena eventually went to the house of her employer, who called the police. Once officers arrived, Lorena told them where they could find John’s penis, in a grassy field opposite a 7-Eleven. According to The New York Times, they quickly located it, put it on ice, and stored it in a Big Bite hot dog box.
Incredibly, doctors were able to reattach the appendage after a nine-and-a-half-hour surgery. And soon afterward, both John and Lorena Bobbitt became household names as their trials captivated the nation.
The Trial That Became A Media Circus
In the aftermath of the incident, both Lorena and John Bobbitt were arrested. Lorena was charged with malicious wounding; John faced charges of marital sexual assault. Many media organizations, however, including Ladies’ Home Journal, questioned whether “marital rape” was an oxymoron.
There were no cameras allowed at John’s trial (due to the charge against him), and he was acquitted in November 1993. In contrast, Lorena Bobbitt’s trial was a media circus. CNN provided wall-to-wall coverage, and her case prompted comment from the likes of David Letterman (who included Lorena in a Top 10 List) and Howard Stern, who defended John and declared: “I don’t even buy that he was raping her… She’s not that great looking.”
Many media organizations also clung to a memorable statement that Lorena had made to police shortly after the incident, when she said: “He always have orgasm and he doesn’t wait for me to have an orgasm. He’s selfish. I don’t think it’s fair so I pull back the sheets and then I did it.”
Lorena’s lawyer later said that she was trying to explain the long-term abuse that she’d suffered at John’s hands. At her trial, multiple witnesses testified that they’d seen bruises on Lorena inflicted by John, and that they’d witnessed him abusing her. But her “orgasm” quote convinced many commentators that she’d attacked her husband out of sexual dissatisfaction. John, for his part, claimed that Lorena attacked because he was leaving her.
“If she couldn’t have me, no one could,” he later said in an interview with Vanity Fair. “And there was the green card, too. That didn’t come to my mind at the time, but it’s obvious. You have to be married to an American citizen for five years to get one, and we’d only been married for four.”
In the end, Lorena was found not guilty by reason of temporary insanity and ordered to spend five weeks at a mental hospital. By 1995, she and John had officially divorced and went their separate ways — in very different paths.
Where Are John And Lorena Bobbitt Today?
After her trial, Lorena Bobbitt was eager to retreat from the spotlight. She started using the name Lorena Gallo again, successfully became an American citizen, and focused on rebuilding her life. Though Playboy offered her $1 million to pose for the magazine, she turned them down.
“A million dollars is a million dollars,” she told The New York Times. “It would’ve been amazing. But I wasn’t raised that way.”
Instead, Lorena went back to school, began a romantic relationship with a new man named David Bellinger (which has lasted for more than 20 years), and eventually had a daughter with Bellinger. In 2007, she created a foundation to help victims of domestic abuse, Lorena’s Red Wagon.
John Bobbitt, however, took a different path.
After moving to Las Vegas, he — and his infamous penis — starred in several porn films, with titles like Uncut and Frankenpenis. John also rotated through multiple girlfriends, some of whom later accused him of domestic violence. All the while, he seemed fixated on his ex-wife. According to The New York Times, he continued to write Lorena letters as late as 2019.
But Lorena, for her part, has moved on. Looking back at what happened in 1993, she’s concluded that most people focused on all the wrong things. Caught up in the can’t-miss nature of her trial, they largely ignored the violence she said that she’d suffered at the hands of her husband.
“The media was focusing only on the penis, the sensationalistic, the scandalous,” she told Vanity Fair. “But I wanted to shine the light on this issue of spousal abuse… I am not a celebrity, I am an advocate.”
After this look at the twisted case of John and Lorena Bobbitt, discover more shocking revenge stories from history. Then, read some of the most incredible survival stories of people who cheated death.