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
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'