After recovering her daughter’s body, Tracy Matheson, 56, learned her child had a tattoo: the word “Beloved.”
Matheson’s daughter, Molly Jane, 22, was killed after she was sexually assaulted in April 2017. Then, Matheson started seeing the word “Beloved” everywhere, and it inspired her nonprofit.
Project Beloved launched April 10, 2018 — the one-year anniversary of the rape and murder of her daughter — to tell the Beloved Story.
Matheson was determined to create this nonprofit in the aftermath of the devastating tragedy to try to use it to help bring change.
Because of her work, Matheson will be awarded the Ignite Award on May 23 at the Conference on Crimes Against Women, which is a program of Genesis Women’s Shelter and Support.
The award recognizes someone or a group who has done something that can and should be replicated across the country.
Matheson is receiving the award for many reasons, including the legislation she helped pass and standing against crimes against women, Jan Langbein, 72, CEO of Genesis Women’s Shelter and Support, said.
“It’s such a perfect fit,” she said.
The Beloved Story
After Matheson discovered her daughter’s tattoo, she contacted a friend who might know its meaning and why it was more significant than others.
“I asked why, and she told me, ‘Because Molly knew she was beloved in God’s eyes,’ Matheson said. “That was a tremendous source of comfort in that immediate time following her death.”
A week after Molly’s death, a friend of Matheson’s was at church when the words Be Love, Be Loved, Beloved came to her and she thought of Molly. Matheson’s friend didn’t know that her friend’s daughter had a tattoo, so Matheson said she thought it was crazy that the word was coming up again.
Not long after, Matheson received a silver and gold bronze bracelet with “Molly” stamped on it.
“I loved it,” she said. “And I’ve worn it everyday since.”
Again, Matheson felt God speaking to her with the word Beloved. She wanted to start a nonprofit but was not sure how to fund it. Her friend who made the bracelet said she put it on her online website and called it the “Beloved Bangle.”
Matheson can count on one hand the number of times she felt like God was speaking to her, and she said this is one of them.
It became obvious to her, the name of the nonprofit should be “Project Beloved, the Molly Jane mission.” She uses the name to guide everything the nonprofit does.
As part of that work, Project Beloved creates Beloved Bundles for victims who decide to go and complete a forensic medical exam, also known as a rape kit.
The bundles contain clothing, undergarments, a hygiene kit, cozy socks, a coloring book and a stress ball.
“Victims can get showered, their hair washed, teeth brushed and put on a new set of clothing and walk out the hospital with dignity after it must feel like all dignity has been taken,” Matheson said.
Project Beloved has donated more than 10,000 Beloved Bundles around the country since it made its first donation back in 2018. They’ve donated to The Women’s Center of Tarrant County and also Children’s Cook Health Care System.
Langbein, CEO of the Genesis Women’s Shelter and Support, applauds Matheson for the Beloved Bundles. The bundles are so amazing for women to take to court or when they have to go to other places, such as hospitals, she said.
The soft interview rooms have been recognized as a huge and positive impact for women when they do come forward to tell their story, Langbein said.
The soft interview rooms include comfortable warm colors, cozy chairs, a blanket, decorative accessories, diffusers, and lamps similar to a home living room.
“Project Beloved has created, like, 45 soft interview rooms in police departments around the country,” Langbein said. “Every police department in my opinion ought to have one instead of some cold metal tables and chairs.”
When rape and sexual assaults happen, people should be able to be and feel comfortable when telling their story, she said.
Molly Jane’s Law
In 2019, the State of Texas passed Molly Jane’s law after Matheson lobbied change for sexual assauly victims. The law states that when law enforcement investigates a case alleging sexual assault, they need to use ViCAP, the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program.
Officers use a database to input information about the offender and the offense. ViCAP then allows agencies from different jurisdictions in the State of Texas to be in communication with each other when conducting an investigation for sexual assault.
“Those who commit sexual assault, they are very often serial offenders and very often their pattern is going to escalate,” Matheson said. “If we can identify them sooner and take them off the street we can save another family from what I know and have their daughter killed.”
ViCAP helps connect the dots so law enforcement can see the patterns of certain offenders’ behaviors.
The future of Project Beloved
“I just want everything that we do, I want it to feel authentic and something that Molly would approve and stand by and believe in,” Matheson said. “She would definitely be someone who would be a voice and an advocate for survivors of sexual assault.”
She describes Molly as a very vocal speaker for those who needed someone to advocate for them, a friend to those who maybe didn’t have friends, and someone who was always willing to go out of their way to be that kind of person.
“So, I want Project Beloved to be thought of as an organization that is helping survivors find their voice,” Matheson said. “To know that they live in a world — when it is time for them to share their truth — that they can do it with confidence knowing that they are going to be heard, they’re going to be believed and that they’re beloved.”
Fort Worth Report fellow Lonyae Coulter can be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.