Content Warning: This article contains depictions of violence. Lorena Bobbitt hardly requires an introduction. In 1993, she became a household name after she cut off her abusive ex-husband's penis and threw it out the window in Manassas, Virginia. The stories about the incident, as well the abuse that triggered it, have haunted her for more than 25 years — but in 2019, Lorena Bobbitt is through letting others mischaracterize and laugh at her story, which is why she went on a press tour ahead of the launch of Jordan Peele's four-part docuseries, Lorena.
Today, Bobbitt goes by her maiden name, Gallo, though she told The New York Times she never expects to fully escape the surname that followed her through one of the toughest parts of her life. And despite finding love with long-time partner David Bellinger, she hasn't remarried. Instead, she spends her time nurturing her relationship with Bellinger and their teenage daughter, Olivia, in Gainesville, Virginia, which is about a 20-minute drive from Manassas, the town where she and ex John Bobbitt lived. "I live here. This is my home. Why should he have the last laugh?" she asked during her interview with the Times.
Her refusal to let John and the Bobbitt name dominate her life all these years later is admirable and one of the main reasons she started the Lorena Gallo Foundation (otherwise known as Lorena's Red Wagon), where she advocates for survivors of domestic abuse.
"I was the subject of so many jokes in the '90s, and to me it was just cruel," she told the Times. "They didn't understand. Why would they laugh about my suffering?" Now, her mindset has changed. "I'll put myself through the jokes and everything as long as I can shine a light on domestic violence and sexual assault and marital rape," she said.
Part of Gallo's advocacy work focuses on the #MeToo movement and the domestic abuse many immigrant women face daily in the United States. Gallo, an immigrant herself, knows firsthand how the threat of deportation can prevent survivors from coming forward and hopes her work and the upcoming Lorena docuseries will inspire others, including her daughter.
"For the whole documentary, a lot of things triggered [me]," she told Variety in January. "Basically, I just had to say, 'Look, I owe this to myself. I owe this to my child. I owe this to women who are victims of domestic violence."
To experience so much pain and still want to fight on behalf of others is amazing, to say the least. Without a doubt, Gallo's influence will prevail for decades to come.
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.