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One mom’s mission to support sexual assault victims during investigations

Project Beloved
Posted at 1:14 PM, Nov 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-01 13:14:33-04

Molly was more than a daughter to Tracy Matheson. The two were more like best friends.

“It’s like she’s my right hand. I could count on her for anything,” Matheson recalled.

Matheson remembers Molly’s humor and kindness and how she believed in the good in people. But it was evil that took her daughter’s life. At 22, Molly was assaulted and killed by a man who was accused of prior attacks and even left DNA evidence behind.

When Matheson learned about the various ways law enforcement, prosecutors and the system failed previous sex assault victims, and eventually her daughter, she decided to take action. She learned all she could about sexual assault and came to learn about trauma informed investigations. She learned why victims are sometimes not believed.

“Their story is going to be like this. It’s going to go in every direction and they’re going to leave a detail out and they going to take it back. It’s not going to be linear. They might be crying. They might be laughing actually. All of that is because of trauma,” Matheson said.

She started the nonprofit Project Beloved in her daughter’s memory. One of the initiatives they’ve started is creating soft interview rooms which are part of a trauma informed investigation. Project Beloved transforms cold, sterile spaces into more living room type settings where victims are interviewed about crimes. The design is strategic and specific.

“We don’t do a love seat or soft because I don’t feel like you should ask a victim to share a seat with another person. We like chairs that swivel. That swiveling motion can be soothing. We put a soft, cozy blanket in there and we also put a weighted blanket. And then, the artwork that goes on the walls is super significant to the space,” Matheson described.

The art inside soft interview rooms are pictures taken by Megan Getrum, who was a talented, well-traveled photographer. Getrum was another victim to the same man that killed Molly, just days later. Her photographs were recently hung inside the Boulder Police Department, one of the latest agencies to request a soft interview room makeover.

Project Beloved has installed more than 50 soft interview rooms across the country in local and federal law enforcement offices, military bases and university offices, even child advocacy centers. They will do their first FBI office makeover in 2023.

Matheson says they don’t seek out departments. They wait to be contacted by them.

“My feeling is I need you to already understand why a trauma informed investigation is important and recognize the value of a soft interview room,” she said.

Project Beloved works off private donations to transform rooms. The makeovers vary in cost but average around $3,000 each.