Out of America: Wife cuts to heart of the problem

WASHINGTON - Until recently, there was little apparent difference between Lorena and John Wayne Bobbitt and many other young couples in the land of opportunity.

She had a job in a beauty salon near Washington DC, and had settled down after leaving Venezuela in search of prosperity. He was a nightclub bouncer, a former US marine who kept trim by lifting weights. To all appearances, theirs was a normal, not-very- happy life, just like the lives led by millions of others struggling to get on in the United States. Then, in a few terrible seconds, everything changed.

According to her account, it happened when her husband returned home one night at 3am. Although she insisted she wasn't interested in sex, she says he stripped off her night clothes and forced her to have intercourse. When it was over, she claims he pushed her away and went to sleep.

Humiliated and angry, Mrs Bobbitt, 24, went to the kitchen for a glass of water. 'The first thing I saw was the knife,' she told detectives afterwards. She returned to the bedroom, woke up her husband, and accused him of raping her. When, apparently unmoved by these allegations, he fell asleep a second time, she sliced off his penis. Mrs Bobbitt later claimed her 15-stone husband persistently abused and raped her during their marriage. 'Everyone has a limit. This was beyond mine.'

That night, upset and terrified, Mrs Bobbitt ran out of the house, leapt into her car, and headed off to see a friend. En route, she hurled the penis out of her car window.

At this stage it appears Mrs Bobbitt began to have second thoughts. She contacted the police and informed them of the whereabouts of her husband's severed organ. After a search at an intersection by police and fireman, it was recovered, packed in ice, and rushed to hospital where it was stitched back on to its owner. Mr Bobbitt, 27, is temporarily banned from weightlifting, jogging and high- diving into swimming pools. But doctors say he will eventually lead a normal sex life.

News editors in the US have ensured the story's longevity, kindling a debate that provides an insight into contemporary attitudes to abuse of women, especially within marriage. A Washington television station held a poll, asking viewers whether either of the couple should go to jail; the majority said they would like to see Mr Bobbitt - rather than his wife - behind bars.

Some women's groups have joined in, especially since discovering that prosecutors are to charge Mr Bobbitt (who claims to be a persistently battered husband) with sexual assault - but not with marital rape. Virginia's law on spousal rape proved impossible to use because of two provisions: the couple must be estranged at the time of the incident, and the victim must have suffered 'serious permanent damage'.

State politicians and female activists point out that such laws are arcane and biased. They are likely to add momentum to the Violence Against Women Act, now before the US Senate, which would classify rape and wife-beating as potential civil rights violations - allowing federal authorities to intervene where state law proves inadequate.

While her husband prepares for the dock, Mrs Bobbitt is waiting for a grand jury to decide whether she is to be indicted on malicious wounding charges. She has issued an explanation of her predicament. 'Many people wonder why I didn't leave my husband sooner,' she said. 'Although I thought about it many times, the reason is commitment.

'Commitment I learnt as I grew up in a very loving family in Venezuela. My mother and father have been married for 25 years and are still very much in love. They taught me to be committed to your spouse for life, and that divorce wasn't an option.'

Now, facing up to 20 years in prison, she knows better.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night