Pocatello native Jan Broberg has acted in dozens of movies, TV shows and plays over the years, but perhaps her most jaw-dropping and important role to date isn’t a role at all.
Netflix recently started streaming the documentary “Abducted in Plain Sight” — a true crime story about a young girl who was kidnapped twice, brainwashed and sexually abused by a close family friend. That girl was Jan Broberg.
In the shocking documentary, Jan and her parents, Robert and Mary Ann Broberg, discuss how they were groomed and manipulated by their charming Pocatello neighbor, Robert “B” Berchtold.
Berchtold, who died in 2005, served a light sentence for the kidnapping charges. He was never charged with any sexual crimes against Jan, who didn’t immediately reveal what had happened to her because of the brainwashing she had gone through. She was convinced that aliens, who spoke to her through an intercom box and told her she needed to have a baby with Berchtold, would harm her family if she said anything about her mission.
Jan knows it’s the kind of story that no one would believe if Hollywood told it, but she lived it. And now she’s sharing her story to prevent other children and families from having to do the same.
Jan, who moved away from Pocatello when she was 18 and currently lives in Utah with her mom, hopes the film will get people talking about how something like this can happen and help them see the clues before it happens again.
“It’s a privilege and an honor to get this message out there,” Jan said.
The documentary was originally introduced into the film festival circuit under the title “Forever ‘B,’” in 2017, but it’s fame skyrocketed once Netflix picked it up in January.
Numerous websites have ranked “Abducted in Plain Sight” among the top documentaries to watch on Netflix. Jan says she’s been interviewed by Dr. Phil, The View, Greg Gutfeld and many others in recent months.
“It’s amazing, the exposure we’ve had so quickly,” Jan said.
There’s already been some talk about another film. Jan said nothing is set in stone yet, but she thinks a sequel documentary or a series with more details could help the audience better understand how people can be drawn in by a master manipulator.
“That’s what’s hard for people. They think they would see it, they would know,” Jan said.
But warnings don’t always come as red flags, she said. Sometimes they are “subtle blue sound waves” that people might dismiss because they don’t want to believe it. That is especially true when the perpetrator is someone close to them — a friend or a family member, not a scary stranger.
“That’s the conversation that has been long overdue. I hope this film and book and anything else we bring out (gets people to) start looking at their own family, their own congregation and their own community,” Jan said, adding that people need to be talking out loud about this kind of thing.
Jan has been receiving thousands of notes from people thanking her for being their voice.
“(They say, ‘It was) my dentist, my dad, my grandpa, my favorite school teacher,’” Jan said, adding that she’s received 20,000 messages like that.
She’s grateful to know she can be their advocate.
Still, not all the exposure her family has received from the film has been positive. Jan says she had no idea the kind of backlash there would be toward her parents, who’ve been harshly criticized for their naivety and the way they handled the situation.
But Jan says her mother and late father were groomed and manipulated by Berchtold just as she was and the film didn’t have time to explain all of their actions. For instance, they did contact law enforcement on the first night she she didn’t come home, but they thought they were looking for a car accident, not a kidnapper.
Jan doesn’t think she would have pulled through without the unconditional love that her parents showed her then and in recent years. She said they had nothing to gain personally by telling their deepest darkest secrets in the documentary; none of them were paid for taking part in the film.
“Three weeks after the documentary started airing, (my mom) turned to me and my sisters and said, ‘You don’t need to protect me. I’ve been telling my story for 20 years. If my story helps one woman avoid the same mistakes ... I’m OK, I can handle it,’” Jan said. “Since then, (we’ve gone) full steam ahead to start the movement and get the conversation going.”
Jan’s mother published the book “Stolen Innocence” about her daughter’s case and its impact on the family and the community in 2003. And her mother will soon release another book, Jan said.
“My mom is still the author, but we worked on it together,” Jan said, adding that the latest book includes information about how pedophiles and master manipulators can work on an entire family and other details that were missing in the documentary.
For information, people can visit janbroberg.com.