We’ve All Been Unreliable Witnesses to Lorena

Documentary subject Lorena Gallo, formerly Lorena Bobbitt, is interviewed at the premiere of the film "Lorena" during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP)

For the New York Times, Amy Choznik spent time with Lorena Gallo in the lead-up to “Lorena,” a four-part Jordan Peele-produced documentary that launches this Friday. Many of us could probably spit out a synopsis of what made Lorena a household name (and a household punchline) — her last name, at the height of her notoriety, was Bobbitt. Many of us would probably be very wrong about the details.

Lorena is correct, of course, that most people forget that before she was tried for what she did, John was charged with marital sexual assault. (He was acquitted.) At the time, marital rape only recently had been made a crime in all 50 states and was nearly impossible to prove in Virginia. Many in the media, including Ladies’ Home Journal and Gay Talese on assignment for The New Yorker, questioned whether it was an oxymoron. (“Wife Rape? Who Really Gets Screwed?” an earlier column in Penthouse read.) Al Franken, as the character Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live, implored Lorena to apologize to John’s penis. And, she is correct, that people forget that a jury found her not guilty by reason of temporary insanity. We forget about the string of witnesses at her trial who testified that they had seen bruises on her arms and neck and that she had called 911 repeatedly and that John had bragged to friends about forcing his wife to have sex. In the years since the trial, he was arrested several times and served jail time for violence against two different women. (He denied the allegations.) “This is about a victim and a survivor and this is about what’s happening in our world today,” Lorena told me.

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