Nonprofit aimed at helping sexual assault victims launched by the parents of a slain Fort Worth woman
"I want them to know that I'm going to do everything I can with every ounce of my energy to work to bring about change," said Tracy.
Flanked by her husband, David Matheson, and a poster-size photo of Molly on Tuesday afternoon at McKinney Church, she announced the launch of a nonprofit organization called Project Beloved: The Molly Jane Mission.
"The epidemic of rape and sexual assault becomes less about the survivor and more about the crime," said Tracy Matheson. "This way more people can come forward and report it knowing they're going to be believed and heard and proper actions will be taken."
Tracy Matheson found her daughter strangled to death on April 10, 2017, in the bathroom of her garage apartment behind an upscale home on Waits Avenue.
Fort Worth police detectives found no signs of forced entry. A day later her death was ruled a homicide and it was revealed that she had been raped. Before month's end, police arrested Reginald Kimbro, 23, at his father’s home in Dallas in connection with Molly Matheson's death. He is awaiting a capital murder trial in that death, and a separate capital murder case is pending in Dallas.
Tracy Matheson said dealing with her daughter's death and launching Project Beloved has been tough.
"It's really been a roller-coaster ride," said Tracy Matheson, adding that she doesn't have good days and bad days but rather good and bad moments. "Every day I just wake up and say, 'I'm going to face today and see what tomorrow brings.'"
After a year of soul-searching, she said, she and her husband felt they had found a way to bring light to a dark and violent incident. They launched Project Beloved, whose mission is to educate, advocate and collaborate to change the conversation about sexual assault and empower its survivors. The project's name was inspired by a tattoo of the word "Beloved" that Molly Matheson had gotten but that her mother did not find out about until her death.
"I contacted a friend of hers to see what it meant [thinking] she might know," said Tracy Matheson. "She explained it was especially significant to Molly ... because she knew she was beloved in God's eyes."
Tracy and David Matheson collected funds to launch Project Beloved with three main initiatives to help Tarrant County victims: Beloved Bundles, "soft" interview rooms and a scholarship in Molly's name.
"I wanted to pick something that we could actually accomplish so we weren't just spinning our wheels," Tracy Matheson said. "These are actually tangible and achievable goals."
For one, "rape kits" collected by law enforcement often leave the victim with nothing to wear home. Though standard procedure, Tracy Matheson said, the process can add even more stress to traumatized victims. So Project Beloved has partnered with the Women's Center of Tarrant County to provide supplies that might bring more comfort.
"It will be easy-to-wear clothing, probably something along the lines of sweatpants, T-shirts short-sleeved and long-sleeved, undergarments," she said. "And a toothbrush, toothpaste, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, a comb, a brush. Just the necessary ingredients to be able to get cleaned up, get dressed and walk out of there feeling like somebody cares."
The second goal, "soft" interview rooms to help victims feel physically and emotionally safe, could be more of a challenge, she acknowledged.
Such rooms would include comfortable seating, pleasant lighting, artwork and a rug — in some ways, like a living room at home.
"We'd have to have an agency agree that they want this installed," Matheson said. "I understand that's not going to be the easiest thing to achieve, but I'm not afraid to ask. So if they have the space, we have the ingredients to transform that room from cold and sterile to something more warm and inviting."
Project Beloved will also award scholarships to students who plan to major in social work in college, like Molly Matheson did. Tracy Matheson said her family was contacted this past weekend by the University of Arkansas, where Molly Matheson studied for three years, to let them know they will be awarding her a posthumous degree.
"It will be at the May commencement, and we've been invited and we plan to attend," Tracy Matheson noted with a smile. "It's really a huge gesture that I know Molly's tickled about."
For additional details about the project or to make a donation, visit the website at www.projectbeloved.org.