This was originally published on Liberal America on December 23, 2016.
Over 23 years ago, Lorena Bobbitt made the news because she fought back against her abusive husband. She still gets recognized all these years later.
She married John Wayne when she was just 19-years-old. The abuse began soon after. It started as verbal abuse but quickly escalated to physical violence.
On June 23, 1993, John Wayne Bobbitt came home drunk and raped Lorena like he had done on many other occasions. That morning, she snapped. She had had enough, so she went to the kitchen, grabbed a knife, and cut off her husband’s penis.
She fled their apartment and threw the severed penis into a field nearby.
The entire country heard this story; it became a sensation. This story could’ve been used to spread awareness of domestic violence and marital rape. Instead, it became a joke, and Lorena was the punchline.
After the incident, women’s groups and domestic violence survivors’ groups tried to start the conversation about abuse. However, the media just wanted to talk about the severed penis. They portrayed her as some kind of vengeful woman.
Bobbitt recovered, though, and she uses her story to spread awareness of domestic violence. She said this about it:
“I took my life back and I gave myself a second chance. It takes a lot of energy to say, No, I’m not a victim, I want to go on with my life, and you just don’t look back."
She has a charity organization called Lorena’s Red Wagon that raises money for shelters across the country. In December, she collects gifts to give to children who are staying in shelters.
This story should have been a way to spread awareness of domestic violence. She was the victim, but she was portrayed as some kind of monster. She is a survivor, and she has used her story for good.