Lorena Bobbitt, who cut off husband's penis in 1993, tells her story in documentary

Twenty-five years on, Lorena Bobbitt now goes by her maiden name Gallo. She tells her side of the story in Lorena, a four-part documentary on Amazon.
Twenty-five years on, Lorena Bobbitt now goes by her maiden name Gallo. She tells her side of the story in Lorena, a four-part documentary on Amazon.PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Mention the name Lorena Bobbitt and the reactions are all too predictable: the knowing snigger, the grimace that indicates pain combined with a protective gesture over the crotch area.

Less frequently do people talk of the sensational case in terms of the domestic violence that led her to cut off her husband's penis in 1993.

Twenty-five years on, she goes by her maiden name Gallo and tells her side of the story in Lorena, a four-part documentary on Amazon.

"I knew the scars would be opened up again, that I would feel anguish reliving these painful memories that I had practically buried," the 48-year-old, who was born in Ecuador, said.

"But I did it because I think that as a woman, as a mother, as a survivor, it is my duty to use my voice, which many victims of domestic violence don't have," she added.

The story of Lorena and John Wayne Bobbitt garnered massive global attention.

On June 23, 1993, Lorena, then 24, cut off his penis as he slept after he had raped her, she said.

The press had a field day, giving the drama huge coverage. But the story also opened up a debate that had been largely ignored until then.

"My case helped lift the taboo on marital violence, sexual abuse and rape by a partner," said Lorena, who was acquitted at her trial by reason of temporary insanity.

She was instead sent to a mental hospital where she was discharged after a month.

The documentary, directed by Joshua Rofe and produced by Oscar-winning film-maker Jordan Peele, opened at the Sundance film festival in January.

When Rofe approached her with the project, Lorena had finally found the peaceful and almost anonymous life she had dreamt of when she was in the spotlight of a global media obsession.

"I didn't want to do it. I was dubious because until now, (other productions) had always focused on John, on the act itself, in a very sensationalist manner which overlooked what I had been through, and that really displeased me," she said.

Rofe's film traces in minute detail Lorena's life, from her move as a young girl from Venezuelan capital Caracas, where her family lived, to Virginia in the United States, where she still lives.

The film moves on to her marriage, the start of the spousal abuse, the mutilation, the trial and her life these days.

Her ex-husband maintains to this day that he never abused her.

"He's a pathological liar," said Lorena. "How is it possible for him to keep on lying? He went to jail for domestic violence, not with me but with other women."

Rofe also looks at the media harassment of Lorena and how she worked to rebuild her life with a new partner and her daughter, now 13.

"You forgive but you don't forget. John is no longer on my mind, I don't live my life thinking about him," said Lorena who founded an organisation for victims of domestic abuse.