Lorena Bobbitt became a household name nearly 30 years ago when she finally snapped.
On the night of June 23, 1993, after suffering years of abuse, the then-24-year-old cut off the penis of her sleeping husband John Wayne Bobbitt, 26, in small-town Manassas, Va.
The shocking case, which quickly became the subject of late-night comedy skits, is now the subject of a Lifetime film titled “I Was Lorena Bobbitt,” which follows the now-49-year-old’s account leading up to that fateful day. Bobbitt served as executive producer and on-screen narrator.
Lifetime will also run a PSA for the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence featuring Bobbitt, as well as Dani Montalvo and Like Humphrey, who star as the controversial couple. The move is part of the network’s public affairs campaign Stop Violence Against Women.
“I think it’s really important that we are releasing this film now,” Montalvo, 26, who plays Bobbitt, told Fox News. “Now more than ever. I think people are listening. People are starting to realize, 'Hey, women -- they might be onto something. They might be telling the truth. They might all have this one, awful, horrible thing in common. And there’s something that we can do about it.'”
“I hope that it... inspires people to reach out,” she continued. “And if they see the signs, they see the patterns of any sort of domestic or sexual violence that they can act. And I think by watching the movie, that they will see what it looks like to live with that sort of reality.”
On that night, Bobbitt, a young immigrant who had nowhere to go, fled the scene, organ in hand. She drove off from their home and flung the penis out of the driver’s side window into a field.
Police later went digging through the overgrown roadside grass for the missing member, The New York Times reported. They found it, put it on ice in a Big Bite hot dog box from a nearby 7-Eleven and then rushed it to the hospital for the bleeding spouse. The former Marine then underwent surgery for nearly 10 hours and had it reattached.
At the time, a distraught Bobbitt claimed she was raped by her drunk husband and simply couldn’t take years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse anymore. But the notorious cause would go on to be sensationalized by tabloids and Bobbitt was depicted as a pop-culture punchline.
At the time, marital rape only recently had been made a crime in all 50 states and was nearly impossible to prove in Virginia, The New York Times reported.
“For some reason, the media was just infatuated about the cutting of this penis instead of what actually is the essence and the core of the story,” Bobbitt told Fox News. “The story was about domestic violence, domestic abuse, sexual assault… the media just missed this window of opportunity to tell [that].”
“We have to understand that the media has a big platform to influence people’s opinion,” she said. “So whenever I see tabloids and it’s all about... penis this and penis that, it was like, ‘Wow, they’re really missing [the point].’ And in the movie… you’ll see I was very traumatized because his trial went first. And I really believed that I was going to prison. I was going to jail. The whole thing was based on something else. There [wasn’t] a focus on the real story.”
Bobbitt admitted it was difficult to see her turbulent past play out on set during filming.
“It was very [traumatizing],” she said. “When I arrived on the scene, actually I was not able to see the sexual-assault scene because I arrived two days later. They just finished filming it. But there were a lot of emotions. There was a lot of trauma. And I knew I was going to get into it. I was prepared mentally because first of all, I helped with the script and I’m an executive producer. I knew exactly what was going on. And that helped me to actually prepare myself to know what I was going to expect. That was my story. I know my story the best.”
The couple was initially charged in separate trials, Rolling Stone reported. For her, it was malicious wounding and for him, it was marital sexual assault. However, both were acquitted. Bobbitt, whose trial was televised by Court TV, successfully pleaded not guilty by reason of temporary insanity. They officially divorced in 1995.
The Lifetime film isn’t the first time Bobbitt has come forward to shed new light on her story. Back in 2019, Amazon Studios released “Lorena,” a four-part docuseries that was executive produced by Jordan Peele.
While Bobbitt had avoided turning the high-profile take into a film or TV series of the year, she agreed to participate in the Amazon project in hopes of setting the record straight. Her ex-husband also agreed to participate, although the 53-year-old later claimed he was allegedly set up to be depicted as “a violent mean guy.”
In a statement to Fox News, filmmaker Joshua Rofé said: “Lorena, John Wayne and more than 40 other witnesses, attorneys, jurors and experts were interviewed over the course of a year to give this docuseries a complete picture of events that took place. This is something Lorena Gallo was not afforded 25 years ago when the story was misconstrued and unfairly sensationalized in the public eye.”
In the years since the trial, John Wayne was arrested several times and served jail for violence against two different women, according to The New York Times. He also denied those allegations.
Over the years, Bobbitt has focused on launching the Lorena Gallo Foundation, which is dedicated to raising awareness on domestic violence and offering support to loved ones.
Bobbitt hopes that the film -- and her story -- will compel other women to speak out and not suffer in silence.
“I’m glad I have a platform now,” she said. “I have a voice to talk and communicate what really happened and to be transparent, be raw. These are real issues. These are real victims. They’re suffering right now. And not only here in the United States, but around the world. [It] is affecting many, many people… And I want them to understand that there’s hope… Maybe they can escape domestic violence by saying, ‘Hey, you know what? This is what happened to me. And I’m not going to be such in this abusive situation. I have resources. I can get away. I can get out in the end.’”
“If my story helps at least one person to escape domestic violence, then my mission is complete,” she added. “My suffering was not in vain.”
“I Was Lorena Bobbit” premieres Monday, May 25, at 8 p.m. ET on Lifetime.
If you or someone you know is suffering from abuse, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.