‘My body is my body’ - a musical message to empower children against abuse

‘My body is my body’ - a musical message to empower children against abuse

34 years ago, Chrissy Sykes, an award-winning South African Country musician, was visiting London when the news of Kimberly broke out – a four-year-old girl who was brutally abused and lost her life as a consequence. Having a four-year-old daughter and being a survivor of childhood abuse herself, Chrissy was deeply moved. She channelled her emotions into writing a song inspired by the incident and the need to keep children safe.

Soon after, she had a chance to perform her song for children in a school in Texas, USA, opening up important, educative conversation on safety through music. This small step was the start of a huge musical journey – one that has achieved significant impact and reached over 2 million children in person across 60 countries. One song turned into a full program, ‘My Body is My Body’ (MBIMB), with toolkits and resources that have been translated into 26 languages and animations that have been viewed over 1.5 million times, all made possible solely by volunteers. Here’s the story of MBIMB, as told by Chrissy Sykes herself.  

How did MBIMB come to be? What motivated you to do this?

On 8 June 1986, in London, England, the life of Kimberley Carlisle, aged 4, ended. She weighed 24 pounds, her body was crushed in many places, and there were cigarette burns on her back and a boot heel imprinted on her skull. Her stepfather was charged with the crime and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

At the time, I was a South African country singer/songwriter and recording artist. I was on a stopover in London. I kept reading the stories about Kimberley in the newspapers, and having a little girl who was also 4 at the time, this story touched my heart and made a lasting impression. I wrote the song "Kimberley" on the flight over to the USA.

In early 1989, while in Texas, I was at a dinner party where the hostess asked me to sing, and I  sang “Kimberley". I was unaware that one of the guests was the President of the Texas Child Welfare Board who loved the song. He asked if it could be used to raise funds and awareness for child abuse in Texas. That year, during Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Texas Child Welfare Board sold 14,000 records and tapes of the song and raised $70,000.

I was asked to do a tour to promote child abuse awareness. I soon found myself in front of 500 schoolchildren. I sang a few songs and then started talking about abuse prevention and giving the children some safety tips. I shared that I had been sexually abused as a child. I had never shared this with anyone before. It was quite a poignant moment in my life. Being honest and open with the children and the use of music to soften a very difficultsubject made such a difference. At the end of the presentation, many children came forward to share their own experiences.

The next day, we were at a high school with 2000 children, and the same thing happened. Luckily, we were travelling with people from Social Services so we could forward referrals. By the end of the week, we could see that something special was happening. It seemed that the mixture of music and the subject of child abuse prevention was a successful combination.

We could all see that something special was happening. It seemed that the mixture of music and the subject of child abuse prevention was a successful combination.

I suggested to the Department of Education and Social Services that I write a special program for the children. I asked them to give me everything they would like covered in a program, and I set about writing the songs. Within the year, the program was approved as part of a curriculum in the State of Tennessee and approved by school systems in many States.

Could you tell us about MBIMB - about the vision and work?

The My Body Is My Body Program is a groundbreaking initiative that is making a real difference in communities worldwide with its musical approach to teaching children about body safety and consent. The program was developed in conjunction with the Departments of Education and Departments of Human Services in the United States of America and has had the support of the International Society For the Prevention Of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN). Our internationally acclaimed and free musical program is designed to educate children on staying safe from abuse in a fun and engaging way through age-appropriate music, activities, and animated videos.

The MBIMB program empowers children to identify potentially harmful situations and seek help when needed. Parents, teachers, and community leaders can utilise the program to initiate these difficult conversations in a positive and empowering way.

What sets this program apart is its unique approach to tackling sensitive topics. The six catchy and fun songs in the program are specifically designed to engage children and facilitate open communication about potentially uncomfortable subjects. The songs have clear objectives, such as teaching children about body ownership, listening to their feelings, and asserting their boundaries with confidence.

We believe that prevention starts with awareness. We want to help people start the conversation about child abuse prevention in a way that is effective, compassionate, and empowering.

The program also emphasises the importance of speaking up and sharing in loving relationships while teaching children to recognise and avoid harmful situations. It reinforces the message that secrets should never be kept when someone is hurting them. 

What are the types of resources available for children and those around children?

We make our resources accessible to as many people as possible. We offer our program in a variety of formats, so that everyone can find a way to learn that works for them.

For children who love videos, our program is available on YouTube (and can even be downloaded for offline viewing!). We also offer children's workbooks, quizzes, and flyers, so that kids can engage with the material in a fun and interactive way. And we're always adding new languages to make sure that our program is accessible to children all over the worl

But we don't just stop at resources for kids. On our website, we offer free courses that help introduce child abuse prevention into communities, and help parents and teachers present the program to children in a way that is engaging and effective.

For those who want to take their knowledge to the next level, we offer ‘Train The Trainer’ sessions. These sessions are designed to help communities, parents, and teachers understand the impact of child abuse prevention and how to approach the program. 

This program is free for everyone. All the translations and language voices have been done by volunteers. There is no funding, and everything that has been achieved has been through the kindness and goodwill of caring volunteers who want to make a difference.

What has the impact of MBIMB been? How have you reached and helped children?

At MBIMB, we're committed to making a real difference in communities worldwide. We work with schools, NGOs, and charity organisations to reach as many children as possible. With over 200 ambassadors and a dedicated team of volunteers, we're proud to have trained and equipped passionate individuals to spread our message of body safety and consent.

So far, we've reached over 2 million children worldwide - and that's just the ones we know of! We've received countless reports of communities having a better understanding of child abuse prevention and children feeling empowered to speak up. And the impact of our work goes even deeper than that.

Thanks to our program, there have been instances where children have been saved from abusive homes and situations. We've received reports of children speaking up and saying "no," which has helped prevent abuse from occurring. We believe that every child deserves to feel safe and empowered, and we're proud to be making a real difference in the lives of children all over the world.

MBIMB has worked towards inclusivity. Could you shed light on how resources are being made available for children around the world? 

At MBIMB, we believe that every child should have access to our program. That's why we're always striving to make our materials as inclusive as possible. We're excited to announce that we've nearly completed our videos in ASL sign language, making our program accessible to even more children. And we're not stopping there! We're now seeking volunteers to help us with BSL and Makaton, and we're exploring solutions to bring our program to children who are visually impaired through Braille.

We're also proud to offer our program in 26 different languages, with our songs sung in 17 of those languages. Our ultimate goal is to make our program accessible to as many children and communities as possible. Because we believe that every child deserves to feel safe and empowered - no matter their language, ability, or background.

How have children reacted? How have you seen music affect them - has it been a reliable and powerful tool to reach children?

Our program has been met with overwhelming positivity from the children who have participated. They love the catchy songs and have even started referring to our volunteers as the "My Body is My Body Person" in some communities!

It's amazing to see the impact our program has had on these children. It motivates us to continue working hard to make it even better. They remember the songs long after our volunteers have left, which shows just how engaging and effective our approach is. It's a testament to the hard work and dedication of everyone involved in creating and delivering this program. When you watch our MBIMB videos, you'll quickly see that the children are fully engaged and enthusiastic about the music and activities. That's exactly what we strive for with this program - we want every child to have a positive, empowering, and memorable experience.

We want every child to have a positive, empowering, and memorable experience.

The results of our pre- and post-program questionnaires have been very promising. We've seen a significant increase in the children's body safety knowledge after completing our program, which is incredibly gratifying. We want to continue improving our program and reaching even more children. That's why we're looking for partners who are willing to work with us on research and help us expand our reach

Explore the My Body is My Body program and resources.



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