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There are some topics people would rather not talk about. But silence is not productive, especially when it comes to child abuse.
This week we are sharing an in-depth story about child abuse and how years of abuse has impacted one area family. The focus is on Mandie Kender and her father, Michael Bolton. You may not know them, but you will likely see much more of at least her in the coming months as she has taken over as executive director of the Exchange Club Center for Family Unity.
“I never thought I would tell my story,” Kender said, acknowledging she has put herself in a “vulnerable” position in doing so. “This job has captured me.”
I hope you will take time to read her compelling story elsewhere in this edition.
Although there has been an increased need for domestic violence support, including crisis centers and domestic violence shelters, during COVID-19, there has been a decrease in reports to child protective services across the county.
So that must mean the need has diminished for child abuse services, right? Not so fast with that thought.
“The reason is because during the pandemic, many children were not in school so educators did not report abuse as they were not seeing it,” Kender explained. “However, pediatric centers saw an uptick in numbers of children coming in due to abuse.”
This shows two things, according to Kender.
“First, educators are heavily relied upon to report abuse and the rest of the community needs to be educated and aware so they can report as well. We can’t just rely on educators to protect children,” she says. “Secondly, parents are under enormous amounts of stress and need additional support.”
Statistics show that violence against women and children is pervasive. About 30% of American women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives. And what’s worse, 3 to 10 million children witness that abuse each year.
Abused children and those exposed to adult violence in their homes may have short and long-term physical, emotional and learning problems, including increased aggression, decreased responsiveness to adults, failure to thrive, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and eating and sleeping problems.
So with that information in hand, it appears we still have our work cut out for us in curbing abuse within the home.
Mandie Kender is ready to stand up for children. “We need to make ourselves aware that child abuse is a huge problem,” she said, noting lots of abuse goes unreported.
Kender, who grew up in Owatonna, currently lives in Minneapolis. She said the drive from home to the Exchange Center allows her ample time to think about her own healing from an abusive childhood as well as how she can weave in the support to help others. She has been encouraged by friends to write a book about her experiences.
More than anything, Kender wants to provide hope for others in similar situations as what she grew up in. She wants to bring the darkness into light.
Both Mandie and her father know they can’t change the past. But what’s glorious now is that they’re in hot pursuit of changing the future, a future without children suffering from abuse.

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