Louisiana university first in nation to introduce 'Project Beloved’ soft interview room for assault victims

Louisiana university first in nation to introduce 'Project Beloved’ soft interview room for assault victims
ULPD investigator Lt. Derren Zachary sitting in the newly furnished interview room meant to make victims of sexual assault more at ease after experiencing a traumatic event. (Source: Rachel Rafati)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL) has installed a “soft” interview room for victims of assault in the university’s police station.

ULL is the first university in the nation to partner with Project Beloved. The soft interview room is located in the newly renovated police station in Bittle Hall on the university’s campus.

The university has partnered with Project Beloved: The Molly Jane Mission to furnish the investigative interview room for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. The room is designed to help victims feel more comfortable talking with investigators after traumatic experiences, with features such as muted lighting, plush chairs and blankets and paintings of nature scenes on the walls.

The newly renovated soft interview room at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette police station.
The newly renovated soft interview room at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette police station. (Source: Project Beloved: The Molly Jane Mission)

“It’s a tool for police to investigate sexual assaults,” Tracy Matheson, president and founder of Project Beloved, said in a prepared statement. “I believe with every fiber of my being that soft interview rooms yield better results. There is going to be a different dynamic between law enforcement and victims."

Project Beloved: The Molly Jane Mission was created to honor Molly Matheson, a college student in Texas who was raped and murdered in 2017. The project’s mission is to “educate, advocate, and collaborate to change the conversation about sexual assault and empower survivors to find their voices,” according to the project’s website. The installation of soft interview rooms is just one of many initiatives of Project Beloved.

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), 23.1 percent of undergraduate college females and 5.4 percent of undergraduate college males experience sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation on campus. Four out of five female college-aged students do not report their assault to law enforcement, with 23 percent citing that they believed it was a personal matter.

Project Beloved hopes to challenge those statistics, making it easier for victims to report their assault.

“I think this room has the potential to help so many survivors,” ULPD investigator Lt. Darren Zachary said. “A person who has been traumatized is dealing with a lot of emotions. A person who has been assaulted will open up more in an environment that is more inviting than a standard interview room.”

To learn more about Project Beloved: The Molly Jane Mission and their initiatives, visit projectbeloved.org.

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