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Why the Lorena Bobbitt case remains a flashpoint decades later

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WASHINGTON (CIRCA) -- The year was 1993. June 23rd. It was around 4:30 a.m. when 23-year-old Lorena Bobbitt snapped, turning a knife on her husband as he slept: cutting off penis.

In court Bobbitt outlined what led her to what some would have considered until that point the unthinkable.

Lorena alleged in trial that her then-husband John Wayne Bobbitt physically and emotionally abused her throughout their marriage. Bobbitt testified her husband returned home drunk after a night out and raped her. After he fell asleep she went to the kitchen for water but returned to the bedroom with a knife. She left home with her husband's detached member and discarded it in a forest.

A new documentary has brought the Bobbitt case back to the forefront.

Beyond the obvious shock value, the case questioned supposed marital norms for the time period. What makes a woman stay with a husband who abuses her, can you be raped by your husband, is abuse a defense for such an assault? What is it that makes a person finally “snap?”

The same questions were asked in the trial of Catherine Kieu.

In 2011, after an argument. Kieu laced her husband’s dinner with Ambien, tied him to the bed, and when he woke dismembered him. Then she threw his severed member down the garbage disposal.

“In these types of cases its typical to vilify the victim, but when it comes down to it, it’s a case of domestic violence. This is a serious case. I know a lot of people may joke about it. But it’s a very serious case involving consequences for both the victim and defendant. It’s a life case. “ said Susan Kang Schroeder, the Orange County District Attorney's spokeswoman.

According to Orange County court records, the couple married in December 2009, but in May 2011 the husband filed for divorce, which was granted in August 2011. During the trial, Kieu’s attorney said she suffered mental-health issues, including depression, and the lawyer argued she shouldn’t be found guilty, the prosecutor’s office said.

Kieu was convicted of torture and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in seven years.

In January, Cyntoia brown was granted clemency after serving almost 15 years for killing a man who bought her for sex when she was 16 years old.

Each case questioned what qualifies a person as a victim or perpetrator.

Lorena Bobbitt was ultimately found not guilty due to insanity and became an advocate for domestic violence victims. John Bobbit had a short stint in the adult film industry.

While John and Lorena went about their lives, their story has forever been cemented in American culture.

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