'Abducted in Plain Sight': Jan Broberg Defends Parents After Shocking Documentary (Exclusive)
By Antoinette Bueno
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The true-crime documentary Abducted in Plain Sight has elicited strong reactions since it was released on Netflix earlier this year, and the film's main subject -- Jan Broberg -- sat down with ET to talk about the almost unbelievable circumstances surrounding her being kidnapped twice by the same man.
Jan, now 56, was first abducted by Robert "B" Berchtold, a close family friend and neighbor, in 1974, when she was 12 years old. Robert fled with her to Mexico, where she alleges he drugged and brainwashed her into believing that she had been kidnapped by aliens and had to have sex with him in order to save the world and her family members. He eventually kidnapped her again when she was 14 years old.
Throughout the course of the documentary, it's revealed that both of Jan's parents -- Bob and Mary Ann -- had sexual experiences with Robert. The Brobergs have been heavily criticized online due to their actions throughout the harrowing documentary, but Jan defends her parents to ET and explains some of the documentary's most bewildering moments. She stresses that Robert was incredibly close to the family, which is why her parents missed warning signs.
"My parents were groomed and manipulated for two and a half years," Jan tells ET's Nischelle Turner. "This family was -- they were our best friends. He was our best friend. ... So, the first thing I want to say is when you put it in context, two and a half years to build ultimate trust with individual members of a family is something that happens slowly, but it happens because you're frequently with those people."
"I want people to put themselves in my parents' shoes," she continues. "First of all, it's the '70s. They don't know what a pedophile is, so there is some naivety there, but my parents weren't stupid."
Jan also explains that even after the first kidnapping, Robert's master manipulation of her parents continued, so they still initially couldn't grasp that she was abused. Still, Jan insists that her father never trusted Robert after the first kidnapping, but does acknowledge the extent to which her mother was taken by him.
"So, here's the thing, he was never allowed back into my home -- my dad didn't want anything to do with him," she notes. "It was just my mother who he had been working on for maybe three, almost now four years, you know. 'I'm in love with you.' .... My mother, who has had a crush on him, you know, been infatuated with him for many years now, he really does the dirty work on her."
Jan also wants to clear up one of the most talked-about parts of the documentary -- the Brobergs allowing Robert to sleep with Jan on her bed when she was a child after he claimed his therapist said it would help him overcome his own childhood trauma.
"That is one part of the documentary that I want to be changed because he did not sleep inside of my bed," Jan says. "He laid on the top of my bed just like Mom, Dad, or anybody else when I'm nine, 10, or 11, reading a story, tickling backs, you fall asleep. I was asleep, he had told my parents, 'I have these tapes I was given by this psychiatrist. I'm supposed to lay by a child who was the same age as I was when I was abused as a kid. And then I lay by the child and I listen to these tapes, and it's supposed to help me overcome the trauma that I went through in my childhood.' The door is open, my mom is doing laundry and she walks in the room and puts the clothes away in the drawers and out she goes and he's laying there listening to these tapes while I'm asleep."
Jan's father died last November after a battle with bone cancer. Jan says Bob never got over the kidnappings, particularly, the guilt he felt about having his own sexual experience with Robert.
"My dad was such a good man and he was so embarrassed that we never thought he would talk about it on camera," Jan shares. "Because it was just that one experience ... and I think he took the guilt and shame of that to his grave."
Jan notes that both Bob and Mary Ann tried hard to atone for their mistakes.
"My mom went back to school after all of us graduated and became a social worker," she points out. "Placed hundreds of kids in foster care, good foster homes and adoptive homes, and lobbied before Congress to get funding to open a center for missing and exploited children in Idaho and in Utah. So, my mom and dad worked really hard to try and make up for their indiscretion."
Jan says they also completely understood the criticism against them after the documentary's initial release in 2017. Still, she says that prior to her kidnapping in 1974, they gave her and her siblings a wonderful upbringing.
"They're my mom and dad and ... I had 12 amazing childhood years before I woke up in the back of that motor home, where we ate dinner together, every night we talked, we were unconditionally loved, we were listened to," Jan says.
She says the reason the documentary has resonated with people is because of the fact that it could easily happen to others.
"Grooming and manipulation is so subtle," she stresses. "We don't think this kind of thing could happen to us and yet somewhere deep inside, we've all been conned or we've all had some brush with somebody taking advantage of us to some degree. ... People don't want to believe that they aren't seeing something that's in their own family or in their own congregation or in their own neighborhood, but that's because we have a bias. The person we trust and love, we're not going to see the little, subtle warning signs because we don't want to, first of all. So, that's really the crux of that story."