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
Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General


£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Linux Systems Administrator

£33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice