Truth is often wilder than fiction, but Abducted in Plain Sight takes that idea several miles further. The crime documentary chronicles the two times a family friend kidnapped 12- and 14-year-old Jan Broberg. Robert “B” Berchtold, a beloved neighbor and fellow member of the Brobergs’ Idaho church, sexually abused Jan throughout the ‘70s, often in her home as he was allowed to sleep in her bed. Despite true crime fans breaking loose across Twitter, fervently questioning what the hell Mary Ann and Bob Broberg could have been thinking letting this man into their lives again after taking away their daughter, Jan refuses to blame her parents.
Jan told Vulture she felt compelled to share her story to show how easy it is to fall victim to child predators. Grooming, she explained, can be very difficult to identify when you’re under the spell of a sociopath like B. He slowly and subtly brainwashed the entire family, including igniting sexual affairs with both Broberg parents — a detail that helped arm the pedophile with blackmail fuel and possibly acted as the reason the Brobergs waited three days to report Jan’s first abduction to authorities. Still, Jan — now an actress living in Utah — effuses empathy for her mother and late father.
“[Grooming] happens slowly all the time,” she said. “I don’t feel like people really understand how it happens and they just blame my parents. The reality is that my parents were victims too, and this man was just a master manipulator.”
Although it seems hard to believe, it’s important critics of the Brobergs’ “complicity” remember that this experience is literally any parent’s worst nightmare. A close friend of the family took extreme measures and an adept approach to gain and completely abuse their trust over the course of two and a half years. B indoctrinated a young, impressionable girl to believe she was half-alien and tasked to have his baby before turning 16. He allegedly raped, molested, and psychologically abused a child — in addition to all the work he put into convincing Mary Ann and Bob they were romantically and sexually indebted to him. No parent would ever volunteer to put their family, themselves, their pre-teen daughter, in that macabre position.
And that’s what Jan hopes Skye Borgman’s film warns audiences: how to spot and avoid the types of spells villains like B cast. She wants to protect families and help eliminate the chances of any child experiencing the horrors she survived.
“[My parents] didn’t see the pedophile. He looked like a nice father of 5, married, business owner, church member,” Jan tweeted on February 13. “...We hope to help you see what we didn’t! Who relates to this?”
Mary Ann and Bob “grew up in small, protected towns,” Jan told Vulture. “My mother said, ‘You just don’t know not to trust the world if nothing’s happened to you. You don’t have any data.’”
Hopefully now Abducted can provide families worldwide with this unfortunate data — and protect countless would-be victims from craven abuse in the future.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).