The story of John and Lorena Bobbitt just keeps getting darker and darker.
The former couple made headline news across the country in 1993 when Lorena, then only 22, cut off her husband’s penis while he was sleeping and then tossed it into a field, which Lorena claimed only happened after incidents of domestic abuse and rape. The surprising crime, dramatic trials, and widespread morbid fascination with the act itself launched John, a former Marine, and Lorena Bobbitt, a manicurist, headfirst into their 15 minutes of fame.
Amazon’s recently premiered four-episode series, “Lorena,” takes a new look at the famous case, examining the two parties at the center of it all and delving into their past — which, for John, allegedly includes abuse and childhood sexual assault, as he revealed in the series’ final episode.
His father abused his mother when they were together, John said — and he used that allegation to suggest that he empathizes with his former wife (despite having consistently denied her accusations of abuse and suggesting in another interview that she was using him for a green card).
"I kinda relate to Lorena, because my mother went through the same thing. There was a lot of anger in my family with my dad and he was abusive,” he said. “My uncles, you know, would come over and beat him up, because he was being violent or touching their sister or whatever.”
His father eventually left the family, Bobbitt said, and the event triggered his mother’s “mental breakdown." According to John, she was a “very, very loving lady,” but the condition she was in made it hard for her to take care of John and his siblings.
The family had to live in a neighborhood that he described as a “a ghetto” after his father left the family, and it was there that he claims he and others close to him became victims of violence and sexual assault.
“At the time, there was a lot of hatred there,” he said. “We were attacked by African Americans ‘cause we were the only white family in a black community. And my mother was raped twice and they attacked me, knocked me down, busted my head open.”
“They burned down our house, so my uncle had to come save us,” he continued.
John and his two brothers then went to live with his aunt and uncle’s family, he said, which is where he, his brothers, and his three cousins grew up together. Meanwhile, his biological mother would sometimes come around “during the holidays.” Aside from that, however, she “pretty much kept to herself,” he said.
It was after he went to live with his aunt and uncle that John’s life would allegedly be filled with more abuse, this time of a sexual nature. A male family member, referred to only as a “pedophile uncle,” abused him as well as the other children, he claimed.
“Then we had a pedophile uncle that kind of abused us. We were 6, 7, 8,” he said. “He’s passed away now, but, you know, we kinda — we were young and did alcohol and was involved and he, you know, molested some of us and, you know, we don’t talk about it.”
John’s admission seemed almost random, and may have been, as Rolling Stone suggested, a “last-ditch excuse” by a man who, in another scene, boldly suggested that the women who have accused him of domestic violence (of which there are at least four) only did so to be vindictive. (“These women, they know that their backup is to use law enforcement to their advantage by saying, ‘Well, you know what? If you leave, or you f--k up this relationship, or you don’t get my citizenship, I’ll call the cops,’” he said, to be specific.)
But there is research that suggests a link between witnessing and enduring abuse as a child and becoming an abuser in adulthood. Children who grow up witnessing domestic violence are 74 percent more likely to commit a violent crime against someone else, and are three times more likely to experience domestic violence as an adult, either by abusing their partners or becoming the victim of abuse themselves, according to the Childhood Domestic Violence Association.
In particular, a boy who witnesses his mother being abused is 10 times more likely to abuse a female partner as an adult, according to the Office of Women’s Health.
“The ‘intergenerational transmission of violence’ has been found in many research studies. People who grow up exposed to domestic violence are more likely to be in violent relationships as adults or teens — about twice as likely in many studies,” Dr. Sherry Hamby, a research professor of psychology at Sewanee, the University of the South, said in a “Psychology Today” article on the subject.
Whether John, as an adult, re-enacted the abuse he claims he witnessed as a child can never be definitively said, as he has repeatedly denied abusing any of his partners. He was found guilty in one battery case in 2003 and served time in prison, but he was later acquitted in other cases.
“I never used violence against another person, pretty much ever,” he insisted during the fourth episode of the Amazon series.
Regardless, there is never any excuse for abuse, and help is available. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached 24 hours a day at 1−800−799−SAFE (7233).
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