A North Texas family is helping the Women's Center of Tarrant County's mission to offer rape crisis services while fulfilling a very personal goal of love.
Molly Jane Matheson was raped and murdered in April of last year in the garage apartment she rented near the Texas Christian University campus. Her mother found her body.
"I discovered that she had a tattoo on her hip and it read, 'beloved,'" said Tracy Matheson, Molly's mother. "It was this very surreal moment…worse than anything I could ever dream up. But there's this word, this beautiful word staring at me."
That word became the framework for Tracy Matheson's new mission: "To change the conversation about sexual assault and empower survivors to find their voices."
The year following the murder, Molly's parents celebrated their daughter's May 18 birthday with gifts, boxed and ready for delivery. But like everything over the past year, the destination was not what they had planned.
The bags they’d packed full of clothing, hygiene products and a special journal are for survivors of sexual assault, all donated to The Women's Center, in Fort Worth. They're called beloved bundles; the first batch of 50 collected and assembled with care by Project Beloved: The Molly Jane Mission.
They're also the answer to a heart-wrenching question: "What do you do on your daughter's birthday when she's no longer here to celebrate?" asked Tracy Matheson.
In 2017, representatives of the organization visited local hospitals 830 times — up 31.5 percent from the previous year. The Women's Center will take the bundles to the hospital whenever a patient has to go through a rape kit.
"What's unique about the crime of sexual assault is that the victim's body is the crime scene," said Alisha Byerly, Assistant Director of Crisis Services for The Women’s Center of Tarrant County. "And so, the impact of just having clothes... They can walk out in dignity and not have to wear paper scrubs or anything like that."
Heather Tatom remembers that feeling. "Just absolute fear," she said.
In 2001 a serial rapist broke into her home and assaulted her in the middle of the night.
"I was met that night in the hospital by a Women's Center victim's advocate,” Tatom recalled. “I don't remember her name, I don't remember her face, but I vividly remember the value."
Now she's paying it forward, as one of the volunteers who will deliver the beloved bundles. Survivors helping each other put the pieces back together.
"So that we can use her story and bring change," Matheson said.
Molly's story isn't over. Last week, she received a posthumous diploma from the University of Arkansas.
"They called out her name and they put her picture up on the big screen," said Matheson.
Larger than life, and still changing lives today.
"They're cared about,” Matheson said of the survivors who will receive her donations. “They're believed and they’re beloved."
Reginald Kimbro, an acquaintance from college, is charged with Molly Matheson's murder and with the rape and murder of Megan Getrum, from Plano, less than two weeks later. He was also accused of three other sexual assaults dating back to 2012 and 2014.
Kimbro is being held in the Tarrant County Jail awaiting trial.