The Huffington post recently decided to resurrect the story of John and Lorena Bobbitt. There doesn’t seem to be any compelling reason for this resurrection. Nothing new has recently occurred in the twenty-three-year-old case. Nothing remarkable has recently happened to either of the individuals involved in it.
Huffington Post senior reporter Melissa Jeltsen decided the public needed reminded of the story anyway. Well, not the whole story, of course, but the femitopian version with the one-dimensional characters; a melodrama with a totally evil male villain and an all-good, innocent and helpless female victim. What other version would a progressive writer with a narrative to promote tell?
She certainly could not include the fact that Ms. Bobbitt administered her unkindest cut to a sleeping man who represented no immediate threat to her. No way was she going to mention that Ms. Bobbitt initially told police she cut her husband’s penis off for a totally different reason than the one she gave in court: He was “selfish” in bed, always having an orgasm himself, but never waiting for her to have one. Later, she accused her husband of coming home drunk and raping her. In court, she claimed that the drunk man was coordinated enough to hold her wrists with his hands and remove her underwear with his feet before holding her down and raping her. No word on whether she explained how her drunk-yet-acrobatic husband held her legs in a position that wouldn’t prevent her underwear from coming off, or how he stopped her from kicking the crap out of him while he tried.
Also not included in the Huffington Post article was the fact that Ms. Bobbitt was later charged over alleged domestic violence of her own. On December 8, 1997, the New York Times reported that Ms. Bobbitt, then going by her maiden name, Gallo, had been arrested for assaulting her mother. The article quotes police as saying the mother suffered “minor injuries, including an abrasion around the eyes and scratches.” Nancy Glass, a neighbor who comforted Mrs. Gallo following the alleged assault, later testified that Mrs. Gallo had told her Lorena had attacked her after a verbal exchange while she was watching TV.
Once her daughter was facing charges, Mrs. Gallo totally changed her story, claiming she started the fight herself and attributing the injuries on her face to “a pimple, a big one.” In a court case with testimony that once again did not reflect what was initially told to police, the judge found Ms. Bobbitt not guilty due to reasonable doubt. The Washington Post quoted Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge James Robeson as saying, “If you asked me if I think she’s guilty, I’d say yes,” (But) “I have reasonable doubt, so I’ll find her not guilty.”
In addition to omitting those relevant bits of information, Melissa Jeltsen included a small plot hole in her article. Lorena Bobbitt is quoted in it claiming that she didn’t know there was any way out of an abusive relationship. However, also mentioned in the story is a pamphlet on rape given to Ms. Bobbitt by a friend, which was found in the home after the assault.
Think for a moment about what we’re being asked to believe here. First of all, it’s not likely this friend picked up that pamphlet at a local dairy bar. It probably didn’t come to her randomly in the mail, either. She most likely obtained it from an organization which routinely distributed such materials.
Remember, this was in in 1993, the supposed dark ages of victim’s advocacy. What kind of an organization would distribute that pamphlet, except one focused on resources for victims? Are we to believe that the friend knew about that organization and didn’t take Ms. Bobbitt to seek assistance, or even tell her about it? That such an organization would produce or distribute informational material that excluded information about victim’s resources?
And contrary to popular modern belief, there were resources. Feminists talk today as though the Violence Against Women act was the first ever government response to intimate partner and sexual violence.
It wasn’t. There’s a longer history of protection for women than feminists admit, but what’s relevant to this article is more recent.
Ten years prior to VAWA’s passage, President Ronald Reagan signed the Family Violence Prevention and Services act, or FVPSA, into law. FVPSA established grant money for the establishment, maintenance, and expansion of programs and projects to: “(1) prevent incidents of family violence; and (2) provide shelter and related assistance for victims and dependents of victims of family violence in order to prevent future violent incidents.”
I covered this a bit more a few years ago on the third page of an article titled “VAWA is not like that.”
Lorena Bobbitt’s claim to not know there was any way out of an abusive relationship was made after 10 years of organized federal funding for shelters and other victims’ resources, and despite having received information most likely to have come from one of those shelters.
While none of this excuses intimate partner abuse, it does cast doubt on the alleged desperation and necessity of Ms. Bobbitt’s actions. Even if Mr. Bobbitt was abusive, she clearly had other options besides maiming him in his sleep, and she clearly had access to information about those options. That leaves Ms. Bobbitt with no defense but an old feminist standby, Battered Woman’s Syndrome.
Battered Women’s Syndrome was initially coined by Psychologist Lenore Walker, who attributed women’s endurance of abusive relationships from which they had avenues of escape as a symptom of Post Traumatic Stress disorder. Dr. Walker’s initial description and study of this behavior was geared toward improving treatment options. However, it soon began to be used as a legal defense. It is primarily used in cases like Ms. Bobbitt’s, in which a woman alleges abuse while facing potential legal consequences for having done something violent to her male partner. The basic premise of the defense is that the woman was justified in escalating partner violence because her psychological response to it blinded her to other avenues of resolution or escape.
This is in stark contrast to the experience of male victims of female abusers, as any act of self-defense can get an abused man labeled the abuser. The lack of equal consideration for male victims stands out even more when you realize the environment they face after the Violence Against Women act of 1994 gendered everything in the victim’s services industry to exclude adult and adolescent male victims. While feminist organizations and lawyers argue that a woman who kills her abusive husband is not guilty of murder because despite the widespread existence of assistance, she felt trapped, a man is expected to refrain from any violence against his abusive spouse regardless of his circumstances.
This indicates that at the very least, Battered Women’s syndrome as a legal defense is bullshit.
And that’s the real legacy of Lorena Bobbitt… not increased awareness of family violence, but the exposure of yet another example of feminism’s selective response to it.
Latest posts by Hannah Wallen (see all)
- The neverending sob story: Accountability gap in the workplace – HBR Talk 26 - February 22, 2018
- Accountability is totally gay! – HBR Talk 25 - February 15, 2018
- Speaking of accountability – court stuff! | HBR Talk 24 - February 8, 2018