When most people think of John and Lorena Bobbitt, they think of Lorena’s gruesome crime: cutting her husband’s penis off while he was sleeping and then tossing it out of a car window like a piece of litter.
But that irresistibly sensational story has eclipsed a darker narrative, one of alleged domestic abuse. During police interviews and courtroom appearances, Lorena repeatedly claimed that she’d committed the violent act because her husband had abused her for years. In particular, on the night of June 23, 1993, John came home drunk and raped her, she said, and that’s what drove her to get a knife from the kitchen and do what she did.
But for John, who repeatedly denied abusing Lorena and who was ultimately found not guilty of marital sex assault, Lorena’s claims would be the first of several public accusations — and sometimes, arrests — related to domestic violence.
John was arrested in May 1994 — less than a year following the incident with Lorena — after his then-fianceé, a 21-year-old former exotic dancer named Kristina Elliott, told police that John had grabbed and pushed her during an argument, the Associated Press reported at the time. Police said that John, who was reportedly intoxicated during the spat, also punched two holes in a closet door, according to Associated Press.
“He was just hitting me. He was just going off,” Elliott can be heard saying in court during an episode of “Lorena,” Amazon’s recently released docu-series re-examining the infamous case. John, meanwhile, denied assaulting her, and claimed that Elliott had actually been hitting him.
John, then 27, was ultimately sentenced to 15 days in jail (60 days with 45 suspended) for misdemeanor domestic battery in September 1994, according to the Associated Press. The judge also gave John six months of probation, in addition to ordering him to attend therapy and Alcoholic Anonymous meetings.
“I firmly believe you have an attitude problem. Your attitude problem is caused by your drinking,” the judge said during sentencing.
John was convicted of a second domestic battery charge against Elliot mere months later and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, according to the Los Angeles Times. The judge called him a "bully" during sentencing and described his behavior as "unacceptable."
John went on to be arrested again in November 1999 at the age of 32, this time for harassing an ex-girlfriend, adult film star Desiree (who chose in the Amazon docu-series to withhold her name), according to the Associated Press. John claimed to be innocent, but a judge found him guilty of harrassment the following year and sentenced him to time served, in addition to ordering him to discontinue all contact with Desiree.
Recalling the violent incident for the “Lorena” series, Desiree, who said she met John when she was a 19-year-old escort at the brothel where he worked as a greeter, got an apartment with John in New York. He reacted violently when she later wanted to leave and have her name taken off of the lease, she said.
“John flew off the handle and he beat me with just about everything that was loose in that apartment,” she said. “John forcibly took me out onto the balcony and pushed me over the edge of the balcony and was holding onto me by my lower legs, dangling me over the balcony, threatening to drop me.”
“People in the street saw what happened,” she said. “He pulled me back up by my hair, by my limbs, drug me across the railing, and I was thrown into the bedroom. I was tied to the bed. Stripped.”
John raped her repeatedly and sodomized her, she said — and he mentioned his famous ex-wife.
“He told me that I was his Lorena now,” Desiree said. “And neither she nor I or anyone that he had been with would ever escape him.”
After three days of “almost endless torture,” John began “gathering sheets” — “like he was going to wrap me up in them,” Desiree said, in tears.
She feared that John was planning to "hide [her] body," so after he untied her and headed for the door, she ran to safety, she explained.
A rape kit was not collected following the incident because the rape allegations did not come out until later, Caroline Wojtaszek, district attorney of Niagara County in New York, said during the “Lorena” special. Bobbitt was only found guilty on harassment charges.
Accusations of domestic abuse would follow John into the 21st century. He was arrested multiple times in the early 2000s for allegedly hitting his then-wife, Joanna Ferrell.
Police arrested John in Las Vegas in May 2002 after responding to a hang-up call that suggested that a domestic disturbance was taking place, CNNreported at the time. Ferrell claimed that John had pushed her down, breaking her tailbone and finger, according to the outlet. A judge found him guilty and revoked the five-year probation he’d been placed on following an attempted grand larcenycharge in 1999, sending him to prison, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal. John confirmed during the Amazon special that he spent a total of 15 months behind bars because of the incident.
More instances of alleged domestic violence would follow. He was acquitted on four counts of domestic battery in December 2004 after he was accused of assaulting Ferrell and her 14-year-old son after the teen found a sex toy in the couple’s room and confronted them about it, calling them “perverts,” the Las Vegas Sunreports. A judge later ruled that John had not battered anyone and blamed the teen for the altercation, according to the outlet.
The trouble between John and his third wife continued when she accused him twice in 2005 of pushing her to the ground during two separate arguments in September of that year, the Lakeland Ledgerreported. He denied those claims and was acquitted of a domestic battery charge the following year, according to the paper.
John denied assaulting any of his exes, including Lorena, during an interview with Vanity Fairlast year.
“I didn’t batter Lorena,” he said. “And those women after Lorena — the ones who were using me, my name, as a stepping stone — I didn’t batter them, either. I’m a Marine. I’m trained to protect people, not hurt them.”
It’s a stance he doubled down on during the “Lorena” special.
“I never used violence against another person, pretty much ever,” he said during the final episode of the series.
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