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Lorena Bobbitt's violent act became a joke, missing chance to focus on the cause, she says

Bobbitt, who cut off her husband's penis in 1993, said she had suffered domestic abuse and then was "victimized again by the media" and society.
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More than a quarter of a century ago, Lorena Bobbitt's name became synonymous with a gruesome act that turned into an uncomfortable joke.

She says now that the nation missed an opportunity at the time to look at what she calls a "social epidemic," the scourge of domestic violence.

Bobbitt, who was an immigrant from Venezuela, cut off her husband’s penis with a 12-inch knife in 1993 and tossed it into a field in Virginia where they lived.

Bobbitt, who now goes by her maiden name Gallo, spoke to "Today" in an exclusive television interview airing Friday ahead of the premiere of a four-part documentary series executive produced by Jordan Peele, which reframes her story in light of the #MeToo movement 25 years later.

She was charged with “malicious wounding” and put on trial. She claimed that her then-husband, John Wayne Bobbitt, spent years abusing her physically, emotionally and sexually before she attacked him.

He denied the allegations of abuse. The jury found her not guilty by reason of temporary insanity.

A still of Lorena Bobbitt in court after the 1993 incident, featured in "Lorena," a four-part documentary series on Amazon Prime.
A still of Lorena Bobbitt in court after the 1993 incident, featured in "Lorena," a four-part documentary series on Amazon Prime.Amazon

Bobbitt's story led to late-night TV jokes and tabloid fodder.

She told "Today" the public focused on the act she committed rather than the abuse she allegedly suffered.

"People actually miss the opportunity, not only to talk about the serious issue but about how a victim is already a victim of abuse or horrendous abuse," Bobbitt said Friday. "And then I go to be victimized again by the media and, us, society. So it was very difficult."

Now, 26 years later, she has a longtime partner and a 13-year-old daughter.

She said that through therapy and the help of her partner, she has been able to deal with her past notoriety.

Bobbitt said she told her daughter about what happened to her, in part, to prepare her for the documentary, "Lorena," when it screened at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

"She said, 'Mom, I didn't realize how strong you are,'" Bobbitt told "Today."

Bobbitt founded the Lorena Gallo Foundation in 2008 as way to help and advocate for survivors of domestic violence. She told "Today" that working in women's shelters helped her heal and adjust back to a normal life after her trial.

"The more I wanted to talk, the more I felt that I wanted to connect with women, that I felt that I wasn't alone," Bobbitt said.

She said she was happy that the #MeToo movement has elevated the voices of women and destigmatized the trauma of survivors. She also feels excited about a new wave of women in Congress who may be able to help close gaps in domestic violence laws to better protect women suffering abuse.

"We have come a long way," she said. "But there is a lot, much more, to be done."

NBC News reached out to her former husband, John Wayne Bobbitt, who declined to comment.