Archuleta A. Chisolm
The Incident And Its Place In History
Twenty-six years ago, it was the hot topic of every news media outlet. Late night talk show hosts and even Saturday Night Live took their humorous shots at what Lorena Bobbitt did.
Not incidentally, the story focused on the male perspective. (Now defamed men who covered her case included Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose). All they wanted to talk about was her infamous act and not what caused her to do it – to take a knife, cut off her husband’s penis and toss it out a car window.
In this day of the #MeToo movement, it makes me wonder how this story would have unfolded if it were to have happened today. Would the outcomes be the same? The culture was not ready to hear it or accept the bigger picture.
We learned her name back in 1993 – a 24-year old immigrant manicurist in the process of leaving her husband. Lorena alleged that John Wayne Bobbitt used to kick, hit, choke and rape her. On June 23, 1993, she says he held her down, as he’d done many times before, and assaulted her.
Afterwards, she went to the kitchen to get a glass of water and saw a knife. Her next memory is driving her car and throwing the severed penis out the window. It was later recovered and reattached to John Wayne Bobbitt.
Lorena was charged with malicious wounding. John was charged with marital rape. Both went to trial, but only hers was televised, and both were acquitted. Back then, this incident could have launched a national conversation about domestic abuse. Instead, all we did was make penis jokes and labeled her as crazy.
It’s taken over two decades but people are talking about her story and the gravity of domestic violence. Last month, Amazon released a four-part docu-series called Lorena, executive produced by Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us). The documentary re-examines her place in U.S. history.
Yes, U.S. History. Today when we talk about the abuse and mistreatment of women, Lorena Bobbitt’s story sets the foundation. It’s no longer met with jokes and late-night skits. The culture is finally ready to hear her voice.
After all this time, it remains disturbing to watch footage from Lorena’s trial. She shrinks in her seat, shakes, and cries as she describes being raped and beaten by her husband. It’s how we feel today listening to the survivors of R. Kelly, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and the host of others.
What we learn from the documentary is that Lorena Bobbitt went on to live a quiet life with her partner David and daughter Olivia. John Wayne Bobbitt has been arrested multiple times for domestic violence offenses involving two other women.
One of the women is interviewed in the series and describes in detail violence similar to what Lorena endured. John Wayne denies hurting anyone and has made his rounds in the media to run their names through the mud.
The thing about time is that it brings about new perspectives, and more importantly change. When Lorena's daughter was little, she told her that "a man hurt mommy, and she hurt him back." This was the best she could give her without opening a can of worms.
After seeing the docu-series, 13-year old Olivia now has the full story of what happened to her mother. A legacy that no longer consists of what she did. Rather, it will be how her story and strength helped other women.