Content Warning: This article contains depictions of extreme violence. Twenty five years after her story first broke, the subject of Amazon's new docuseries, Lorena Bobbitt, is still making headlines. Her story first rose to national attention back in 1993 for being one of the most and disturbing domestic dispute stories to ever hit the news. After suffering for years in an abusive marriage, Lorena had had enough. One night, after her husband John Bobbitt came home heavily intoxicated and tried to force himself on her, she decided something had to be done. So, Lorena cut off John’s penis. If you think that’s the end of the story, it’s not — that’s really just the beginning of the long timeline of the Lorena Bobbitt case.
When this story first broke in 1993 it was treated as a he said/she said case, with both John and Lorena making conflicting claims about who was actually abusing who (John, to this day, still claims he never hurt Lorena). After “the incident,” as it will henceforth be known, the two stood trial for their actions during the marriage, and both John and Lorena Bobbitt were found not guilty. And still, if you think that’s the end of the story, that’s only just scratching the surface.
Amazon Prime’s new four-part documentary, Lorena, takes a detailed look at the true crime story that completely gripped the nation, and one that also changed the way we talk about domestic abuse and sexual assault. Lorena is not the first woman to ever fight back against her husband, and she sadly won’t be the last. If you’re wondering how she came to actually do what she did, and what happened in the aftermath, here are the important facts you need to know.
John’s Early Life
John, born in 1967, grew up in Niagara Falls, New York. His father was completely out of the picture, and at age three he was taken away from his mother (who was a drug addict) and he and his two brothers were sent to live with his aunt and uncle. According to John, he grew up with a big family and went to church every Sunday with them. When he was of age, John enlisted in the Marines because a bunch of his friends were also enlisting in the Marines.
Lorena’s Early Life
Lorena was born in Ecuador in 1969, but raised on Venezuela. As a child, she would watch American television and dreamed of living "the American Dream," as she says in the Amazon doc. Eventually she came to America on a student visa, and enrolled at Northern Virginia Community College.
John & Lorena Meets In Late 1988
While still enlisted with the Marines, John met Lorena at a Marine Corps officers’ ball during a singles night event. According to John, Lorena was “shy” and “didn’t speak much English.” The two had immediate chemistry, and shortly thereafter began dating.
Nine Months Later, In 1989, They Get Married
In an interview with 20/20, John and Lorena both had different versions of how the proposal happened. According to John, Lorena proposed to him (and her mother was present as well), but Lorena claims that he proposed to her. They were married about nine months after they started dating, on June 18, 1989. Their wedding was small and done by a Justice of the Peace.
And this where one of the first instances their varying stories occurs: According to John, their wedding was rushed not because of love, but because Lorena’s student visa was expiring and she wanted to stay in America.
Lorena Claims That Marital Abuse Started Right Away
Throughout his entire story, no matter who he’s talking to, John maintains that he never actually harmed, raped, or forcefully put his hands on Lorena. He claims that he “restrained” her at times when she fought him, but he stands by his innocence that he never attacked or assaulted her.
However, Lorena claims that one month after they were married the two were driving in the car when John started driving erratically, and Lorena asked him to stop, placing her hands on the steering wheel to try and straighten their route. It was then that John allegedly punched her for the first time.
John Is Discharged From The Marines In 1991
The docuseries shows that two years after they were married, John was discharged from the Marines and no longer had a steady paycheck. He had trouble finding, and then holding, down jobs. This left Lorena to be the sole provider for their household. During this time, Lorena worked as a nanny in the Virginia area and at a beauty salon where she did manicures. Lorena became close with the woman who owned the salon, Janna Bisutti.
Lorena Begins Embezzling In October 1991
With money tight, Lorena began embezzling money from Bisutti, about $7,000. Bisutti realized what was going on, and had Lorena pay back the money with interest. Lorena kept her job at the salon. She would later go on to steal a few dresses from Nordstrom, for which she received a punishment of community service.
Lorena Has An Abortion Sometime In 1991
John and Lorena tell different stories about what really happened when she learned she was pregnant. According to Lorena, she was excited to start a family and told John the news, and he was less than thrilled to hear about it. She says that John didn’t think he could care for the child, and suggested that he would leave Lorena if she had the baby; Lorena didn’t want to raise the child on her own. She claims John was the one who suggested she get an abortion.
According to John, he and Lorena agreed that it wasn’t the right time for the two of them to have a baby, and they decided on the abortion together.
The Day Before The Incident: June 22, 1993
Supposedly, John was the one that brought up the idea of divorce to Lorena, and just the thought of it made her upset. However, she was still scared of him, and decided to go to the police for help. The day before the incident, she went to the police station in hopes of taking out a protective order against John. It would take three hours to process, but Lorena didn’t want to wait three hours. She left before it was completed.
Early Evening And Into Night On June 23, 1993
A friend had come to stay with John, so the two of them went out drinking for the night. Lorena claims that when he returned home, John raped her before he fell asleep. John claims he can’t remember any of this and has no recollection of performing any sexual acts with Lorena that night. John also claims he vaguely recalls “petting,” but no other sexual acts.
Around 4:00 a.m. On June 23, 1993
As Lorena tells the story, after John allegedly assaulted her she went to the kitchen to get some water. There happened to be a knife sitting next to the kitchen sink, so she picked it up. Returning to the bedroom, she sliced John’s penis off. Since he was still heavily intoxicated, he didn’t realize (or feel) what was going on until it was over and there was a pool of blood on the bed.
Early Morning & Midday On June 23, 1993
John realized what Lorena had done, and woke his friend up so the two of them could go to the hospital. Lorena, meanwhile, left with John’s penis and started driving. Eventually it became too difficult for her to drive and hold the penis at the same time, so she threw it out the window and into a field. Later, police were able to locate the penis in the field, and it was then brought to John at the hospital. After a nine-and-a-half-hour surgery, Dr. James Sehn was able to reattach John’s penis.
Lorena eventually made it to Bisutti’s house, where she told her employer what happened.
The Night Of June 23, 1993
Lorena was arrested for this crime, and charged with malicious wounding. If found guilty, she would have faced up to 20 years in prison.
John’s Trial: November 8-10, 1993
John was tried for marital sexual assault, and found not guilty November 11, 1993.
Lorena’s trial: January 10-22, 1994
Lorena was tried for malicious wounding, and claimed to the court that John had sexually assaulted, abused, and raped her. She was found not guilty due to temporary insanity on January 24, 1994 and was sent to a psychiatric ward for 45 days. She was released on March 1, 1994 and deemed not a threat to herself or society. Shortly after, she filed for divorce from John.
In 1994, John Stars In An Adult Film
Six months after Lorena is released from jail, John release a porno, John Wayne Bobbitt: Uncut. After the trial he moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he met Ron Jeremy. Speaking to Vanity Fair in August, John explained the adult film: “A porno seemed like the best way to show my penis worked. Only it wasn’t all-the-way healed yet. I realize now that that was the point.”
Meanwhile, shortly before the movie's premiere, John was charged with misdemeanor domestic battery against his new girlfriend, Kristina Elliott. He served 12 days of a 15 day sentence.
In 1995, John & Lorena Finally Divorce
Six years after they were married, and two years after the incident, John and Lorena finalize their divorce.
John Does Another Adult Film In 1996
John’s second porn film, Frankenpenis, was released in 1996. Are you wondering why? Why does the world need two John Bobbitt pornos? Well, it’s because John had accepted an offer from Howard Stern for reconstructive plastic surgery for his penis to enlarge it even further.
Lorena Is Arrested Again In 1997
In 1997, Lorena was arrested for allegedly assaulting her mother, Elvia Gallo. Though there was a witness who claimed they watched Lorena hit her mother, she was found not guilty.
John Has More Legal Trouble In 1999
By the end of the decade, John had wracked up a lot of legal woes, many of them related to assault and battery. But first, in 1999 he plead guilty to a felony charge of attempted grand larceny after stealing $140,000 worth of clothing in Nevada. That same year, he was found guilty of harassing an ex-girlfriend, Desiree A. Luz. Later in 2002, he was charged with battering his third wife, Joanna Ferrell, but eventually found not guilty.
Lorena Finds Love In The Late 1990s
Eventually, Lorena returned to community college and it’s there that she met Dave Bellinger. Though the two are not married, they’ve been together for the last 20 or so years, and have one daughter together, Olivia.
Lorena Starts A Foundation In 2007
Wanting to help other women in abusive relationships, Lorena starts Lorena’s Red Wagon Foundation, a non-profit that helps domestic abuse survivors.
In 2009 John & Lorena Make Their Only Joint Television Appearance
Before, during, and shortly after the trial, both Lorena and John sat down for numerous interviews, but never one together. That changed when the two appeared together in 2009 on The Insider. Lorena told John, “You drove me crazy. You drove me insane. No woman should go through that I went through."
And Lastly, In 2019, Lorena Premieres On Amazon
Now, the docuseries is reigniting the conversation surrounding Lorena Bobbitt, her claims of marital rape and domestic abuse. While the Bobbitts became a joke in the '90s, Lorena's story certainly has a different ring to it today.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224 for confidential support.