CROCKETT, Texas (KTRE) - A mother’s heartbreaking experience turned into a heart-warming, non-profit organization for victims of sexual assault.
Tracy Matheson’s daughter, Molly Matheson, was murdered and raped in April 2017. Since then, Tracy has dedicated her life to helping others speak up about their abuse, and she has provided soft interview rooms for them to go to.
A soft room is a room for the sexual assault victim to more comfortably discuss the assault. It’s a completely made-over room, using an old interrogation type space, into a small, comfortable living room type of intimate space for the victim, family, and detective to talk to each other. Tracy set up the 11th soft interview room at the Houston County Sheriff’s Department in Crockett.
“It wasn’t long after that that I realized that I have to do something. I had make Molly’s story mean something and make a difference,” Matheson says.
The organization is called: “Project Beloved”. They strive to educate, advocate, and collaborate to change the conversation about sexual assault and empower survivors to find their voices.
“I want to see a world where those who are survivors of sexual assault know that they can go and tell their story, when they are ready to tell their story. They are going to be listened to, going to be heard and going to be believed,” Matheson says. “If they choose to report to law enforcement, then that will be a positive experience and we’re going to turn the tables on how we respond to and investigate cases of sexual assault."
Statistics show that out of 1000 rapes, only about 230 will be reported. Of the 230, about nine of them will make it to a prosecutor.
“Instead of it being 20 percent reported, that will move to 30 percent, 40 and 50,” Matheson explains. “That way, they feel comfortable knowing that they can come forward and that they will get the response that any victim of a crime deserves."
According to Tracy, when investigating sexual assault, it is important that people come from a trauma-informed perspective. A piece of being trauma-informed is a soft interview room, which is why she created this idea of a safe space.
“I would like to think that as time goes by that these soft interview rooms are just going to become the norm across the country. That it will be a recognized best practice for anyone who’s working with any victim of violent crime."
So far, they have had 125 beloved bundles donated, just installed the 11th soft interview room and given away two scholarships at the University of Arkansas.
“This is all Molly inspired. Molly was a bright light. She didn’t know a stranger, people adored her, and she was a friend to everybody,” Matheson says. “I’m trained to honor her by what we’re doing with Project Beloved."
The first soft room was established at Angelina County Sheriff’s Department. Tracy continues to do speaking engagements and encourages people to not be afraid to speak up and spread awareness to help save a life.