"I immediately thought it was about a horror movie," John Wayne Bobbitt tells ABC of when then-wife Lorena sliced off his penis

By Adam Carlson
January 04, 2019 08:00 AM

It was, at first, a case too gruesomely intimate for many to actually discuss in detail.

In the summer of 1993, Virginia manicurist Lorena Bobbitt drew an eight-inch kitchen knife from the home she shared with her husband, former Marine and unemployed restaurant host John Wayne Bobbitt, then returned to their bedroom and sliced off his penis.

She later disposed of his sexual organ — tossing it out of a car window — but it was recovered and successfully re-attached.

That was far from the last of it, however: Lorena, 24 at the time, was acquitted in the attack by reason of temporary insanity while 26-year-old John, whom Lorena accused of rape, was found not guilty of marital sexual assault.

Intense news coverage followed every turn, and continued to follow both Bobbitts years into their lives afterward, from their divorce to relationships with other people.

For their part, John and Lorena gave interview after high-profile interview, even decades later, about an incident most of America could not stop discussing.

The latest look at the case comes Friday night on ABC’s 20/20.

The special — “The Bobbitts: Love Hurts” — includes interviews key attorneys in the case as well as observers who were there from the beginning, such as journalist Kim Masters. The episode also features Lorena’s first TV interview, with ABC in 1993.

From left: John Wayne Bobbitt in 1994 and Lorena Bobbitt
JENNIFER YOUNG/AFP/Getty; Jeffrey Markowitz/Sygma/Getty

For all of its graphic details, the fulcrum of the Bobbitts’ altercation has spun around allegations of marital violence and who between them was truly to blame. The 20/20 episode examines anew the connection to domestic abuse and more recent social movements such as #MeToo.

John speaks out as well: He sat for several hours with ABC News’ Amy Robach, who tells PEOPLE he was almost disconcertingly jovial about the traumatic experience.

In an exclusive clip, above, he recalls the moments immediately after Lorena mutilated him.

“When I sprung up and I was bleeding, I was applying pressure, I immediately thought it was something out of a horror movie,” he says.

His attorney at the time says he “described it as the silent scream. He didn’t say anything.

“I was gonna die,” John recalls thinking. “That was it.”

20/20 airs Friday (9 p.m. ET) on ABC.