“Dance lessons were where I felt safe. I want children growing up now to know that if there are problems at home, there is something that can be done and to encourage them to talk about it.”
Foreword by Sharon Evans CEO, Founder
One of the things I have come to learn in life is that the way to decide who your friends truly are is to look at their actions. In the last five years you might not have realised it, but alongside appearing on the TV screen and stage, Kristina has travelled all over the country doing charity work with me, meeting children and visiting schools, talking about her childhood and how she overcome the challenges. One summer she even spent six weeks putting on dance workshops for children in London’s most deprived areas!
It is my privilege to have come to know Kristina through our passion for dance and helping children to stay safe. Her love of children and her devotion to our charity, the Dot Com Children’s Foundation, is perhaps a side of her life that will come as a surprise, as it is far from the glamour image that is expected!
I was introduced to Kristina in 2010 by Len Goodman who was my dance teacher during my childhood, but is perhaps better known as the head judge on the BBC Strictly Come Dancing TV show. I decided to put on a dance show with the help of Len’s son, James Goodman, to raise funds for the charity. James and I wanted someone from Strictly to act as a judge as Len was away in America on the night of the event, and so he suggested Kristina because he said everybody on the show knew how much she loved children. I was delighted at how readily Kristina accepted the invitation and very pleased that she agreed to stay for the dinner after the show.
I started the charity because growing up near Dartford where Len had his dance school, I was forced to keep a terrible secret. Nobody knew that my father was extremely violent and my grandfather was a paedophile. Between the ages of 3 and 7 I was exposed to extreme violence in my home and sexual abuse which left me with learning difficulties at school. At charity events I always speak about my childhood and how dancing with Len helped to heal me and gave me the motivation to go on to become a newsreader and eventually start a charity to help protect children and give them a voice.
After my speech on that night I was surprised that Kristina asked to speak to me privately. Her eyes brimmed with tears as she explained that she had grown up in a similarly abusive environment where she was frightened all the time and did not feel loved. Like me she felt that dancing had saved her and her dance school was the only place where she felt valued and safe.
Since that night Kristina has put her heart and soul into helping me grow the charity and bring more children and more schools into the programme. In 2014 she took the decision to speak publicly about her childhood and has become the charity’s patron. I imagine that many people who watch Kristina and believe her to have had a perfect and glamorous life will be shocked by the truth and how hard it has been for her to overcome the fear and loneliness of her childhood and become an international star.
Through the charity’s learning programme Kristina and I are now reaching thousands of children and helping them learn how to stay safe and how to value themselves.
Kristina was recently responsible for one of the biggest shocks of my life when I won Best Magazine’s Bravest Woman Award! She nominated me for the work I do in raising awareness of child abuse and protecting children. It is pretty tough making yourself vulnerable and telling people about the parts of your life that were painful, but I believe that is the only way we will bring about change. The truth is it was very lonely for me on the stage until Kristina was by my side using all her courage to tell her own painful story and all that wonderful passion and energy that can be seen in her dancing to bring greater awareness of the need to have a national education programme in our schools, which helps children protect themselves from danger and know how to ask for help.
Sharon Evans, CEO