I am ashamed to admit that I knew nothing about Terri Jentz, other than she was the partner of Donna Deitch, the director of the incredible lesbian movie, “Desert Hearts.” When you read about Terri, you will understand my embarrassment. This is a remarkable woman who rose out of the ashes of a devastating experience to help others who have been severely traumatized and who need healing.
An Terrible Life-Shattering Experience.
In the summer of 1977, Terri was at Yale University. She and her room mate decided to cycle and camp in the state of Oregon. What happened is beyond our greatest nightmare. At around midnight a seventeen year old violent boy deliberately drove his truck over the women’s tent. He crushed the skull of Terri’s friend, Shayna, and when Terri crawled out of the tent, this deranged person stood over her with an axe. Terri managed to catch the axe as it fell on her and she told the boy to take what he needed and to go away. For some reason, he did.
Terri wanted to ride her bike to get help for Shayna, who was dying. She was unable to ride as her upper bones had been broken. Miraculously, two teens appeared on the scene and Terri and her friend were taken to the hospital. Shayna survived although she now has only partial sight. They parted and each person went their own way.
Terri’s Fight Against PTSD
This traumatic incident left Terri emotionally scared and brought on Post Trauma Stress Disorder. She developed fears and phobias, but there was part of Terri that wanted to heal and in a great interview with Moon Magazine http://moonmagazine.org/terri-jentz-my-journey-to-justice-2014-02-01/5/
Terri states that she had to go back (to Oregon) in order to go forward. She was determined to find out who the maniac was and why he had never been brought to justice. She spent many trips to Oregon and interviewed many people. Out of this brave endeavour came a prize winning book about her experiences named, “A Strange Piece of Paradise.” It is being made into a movie.
Terri’s Self Healing and Mission to Help Others
The Oregon horror was turned into the above mentioned book as a way of healing herself and the Oregon community. Many of them knew who the violent boy was and yet never turned him in to the police. And, the police never fully investigated the hideous crime. Yet, the community welcomed Terri and tried to make amends for their behavior. The boy, now a man was now known to the police who watched his every move. His violent nature led to his arrest when he hurt his hunting partner.
Terri could not obtain justice as the statues of limitations existed at that time in Oregon and he could not be tried for his attempted murder.
Terri’s Work Now.
In 2014, Terri was working on a project about the murder of a Lakota native woman who was beaten, raped and then shot by two white boys. This happened in 1980 in South Dakota and Terri is interested in why so much of the story was ‘swept under the carpet.’ Terri is right in her approach as to why a community does not take full responsibility for a crime committed to a member of that same community. Is it because it happened to a native woman and the murderers were white? Is it guilt that they do not want to come to terms with? At least Germany has apologized and compensated the state of Israel for the Nazi’s extermination of six million Jews. Terri feels that when neither the whites or natives of South Dakota want to talk about it, then the story needs to be told. There needs to be reconciliation between the two cultures.
The Power of Terri and Her Partner, Donna.
Below is part of the interview in Moon Magazine. I would encourage you to read the entire interview.
Terri: My partner, who is a filmmaker, is in India with Gloria Steinem right now. They are interviewing girls who have been sex trafficked. The brutal rapes we’ve been hearing about in India have been going on forever, so I think the fact that we’re hearing about them now means that things are changing. We’re shining on a light on something that was completely hidden thirty years ago.
I think empowering women is key to solving all of the problems we face. Empowering women is key to population control, ending genital mutilation, reducing infant mortality, feeding families and ending poverty, ending violence against women. Empowering the feminine means respecting the Earth, children, animals, nature, wildlife. I even think it’s key to ending war.