Project Beloved: The Molly Jane Mission
by Tracy Matheson - - - a very special thank you to Reagan Putty, publisher of Overton Life Magazine, for this generous coverage.
If you told me that one day I would found a non-profit I would have probably not believed you. If you told me that the inspiration for founding the non-profit would be the murder of my 22 year old daughter I most certainly would have thought there was no way something so incredibly senseless and tragic could happen….not to me….not to our family…surely not. The mere fact that I am writing this story for Overton Life/Tanglewood Living is as close to surreal as it comes. It was not long ago that I was writing stories about Precious Pets and Feature Families.
Yet the unthinkable did happen. April 10, 2017, I drove to her garage apartment in 76109 to check on her, as her manager had called to say she had not shown up for work. She was worried because this was so unlike Molly. There were many thoughts racing through my head as I made the less than ten minute drive to her house. Finding her dead was not one of them.
If I am honest, I will tell you that hearing a paramedic tell you that your precious, beautiful, vibrant, was just at your house for dinner the night before, and had her whole life yet to live daughter is indeed dead takes you to your knees. When I recall that moment today, it is hard to imagine that it was really MY life.
The next day we were told that Molly’s death was ruled a homicide. And if that was not horrific enough news, we were told she was also raped. Think on this for a moment. The girl who was described as light and was a friend to everyone, my only daughter and my best friend, was raped and murdered.
In the days and weeks that followed, it became increasingly clear that I was going to need to do something. Levi Lusko writes, “Pain is a microphone. And the more it hurts, the louder you get. Suffering isn’t an obstacle to being used by God. It is an opportunity to be used like never before.” I needed to make sure Molly’s death was not the end of the story. I believe her story has the potential to change things…in a big way…and I knew it was going to be my job to see that change happens…for Molly…and all survivors of sexual assault.
Project Beloved: The Molly Jane Mission became an official non-profit charitable organization in the eyes of the state of Texas in November 2017. Little did I know that was the first step in a very long and twisting journey about which I knew almost nothing. There was a mission statement to write, a Board of Directors to name, initiatives to identify, a website to design, and on and on and on. The process was made simpler because of the generous spirit of so many people, in Fort Worth and beyond, who offered up their gifts and talents. It truly has been a collaborative effort, and I am keenly aware of the true goodness of people in a more real way than I have ever known.
When someone asks me what it is I hope to accomplish with Project Beloved, my initial, gut response is, “I want to change the world.” Then I get embarrassed and realize that is far too lofty a goal. While lofty and realistically unachievable, it is exactly my heart as I look to the future. Instead, we have decided on a few initiatives which we can realistically accomplish and which directly relate to our mission statement that reads:
Project Beloved strives to educate, advocate, and collaborate to change the conversation about sexual assault and empower survivors to find their voices.
Our first initiative is what we are calling Beloved Bundles. When a survivor goes to the hospital to have a forensic exam, also called “rape kit,” done by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) and law enforcement is involved, their belongings are most often seized as evidence. They are left without proper clothing to wear home from the hospital after experiencing not only the trauma of rape but also the invasive procedure of a SANE exam. A Beloved Bundle includes clothing, under garments, hygiene products and other necessary items and is the first step in restoring dignity to the survivor.
In Tarrant County, the majority of SANE exams are performed at JPS Hospital, and we are so fortunate to have a first class SANE department staffed by some of the very best SANE nurses. The Women’s Center sends staff or an advocate to every report of rape or sexual assault in Tarrant County. In 2017, they responded 830 times. We are partnering with The Women’s Center by supplying them with Beloved Bundles. In time, we plan to expand beyond the walls of Tarrant County. One day, it is my vision that every single person who has a SANE exam will walk away with a Beloved Bundle.
There has been a lot of research into best practices as they relate to those who have experienced trauma. Trauma informed care (TIC) is a key ingredient of best practices.TIC considers and understands the body's biological and neurological response to trauma. Our second initiative involves the setting where a survivor is interviewed about their sexual assault or rape. A soft interview room (one that includes comfortable seating, some artwork, pleasant lighting, and more) is considered an integral component of TIC. Creating a space that is comfortable rather than stark allows the participant to feel physically and emotionally safe and can have a significant impact on the interview process. Soft interview rooms could also be useful when interviewing those suspected of committing crimes as well.
Project Beloved will partner with area agencies and organizations who desire the installation of a soft interview room in which to put into practice TIC. It is our hope that we will reach far beyond the local area with soft interview rooms being installed all over the country. The truth is less than 30% of those who experience sexual assault or rape actually report it. Creating an environment which considers the trauma a survivor has experienced is one small way to change the conversation about sexual assault and empower survivors to find their voices.
There is one last initiative we have identified. Molly planned to become a social worker and hoped to one day work with troubled youth. She was going to be excellent at this job as she truly had a compassionate heart and accepted people just as they were. Project Beloved will grant a $1000 scholarship to a Tarrant County student who is a member of the class of 2019 and plans to study social work in college.
There is plenty more we hope to accomplish, and I envision many other directions we will go. Goodness knows there is work to be done. The current climate in this country indicates that the time is now for change. Molly’s life and the tragic, senseless loss of her life are plenty of reason to bring about that change. I am a momma with a mission and will devote every ounce of energy to making sure her story is told so that another parent does not have to know the pain I never imagined I would know.
We look forward to October 25 when we will hold our inaugural fund and awareness raising event. It will be hosted at the incredible new venue,The 4 Eleven, and we are so excited. Many details are still being worked out and planned, but I can assure you it will be a good time. Molly was the life of the party, and we will honor her fun loving spirit that night.
To my amazing community, thank you for loving us so well. We have felt your support and are standing upright today because of this amazing place we call “home.”
For more information about Project Beloved: The Molly Jane Mission, please visit our website www.projectbeloved.org or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org