Conversations about the religious and spiritual life on the other side of fundamentalism
286: Abducted in Plain Sight:  The Broberg Women Speak Out

286: Abducted in Plain Sight: The Broberg Women Speak Out

Photo credit: ‘Abducted in Plain Sight’ by Trending Topics 2019

When the crime documentary ‘Abducted in Plain Sight’ was released on Netflix, Jan Broberg (the woman at the centre of this seemingly bizarre story of multiple kidnappings, an alien mission and sexual assault while a child) was full of regret and worry.   Her parents, Mary Ann and Bob Broberg, were publicly mocked and vilified for what seemed to be their complicity with the abuser Robert Berchtold.

But, a 90-minute crime documentary cannot hope to capture the complexity and nuance of a story that has spanned several decades.   This was a story, not just about the violation of a child, but about the manipulation and grooming of a whole family.

The Broberg women sit down with me in order to set the record straight about their beloved parents.  Their only motivation in telling this sometimes excruciating story is to have families, churches and communities speak up courageously about the banality of grooming and sexual abuse among our own.


  1. Leanne Worwood

    This is a fantastic interview! I love the shared storytelling between the family members. I appreciate all the authenticity and explanations of the personal story, and I hope that Jan’s story will become the instrument of instruction that it needs to be. I have so much respect and admiration for the Broberg family. The fact that they survived this insane ordeal intact as individuals and as a family testifies to the power of their goodness and love.

  2. Bertie Young-Criddle

    I was very impressed with your story as a family who had the courage to speak-up about a sensitive subject. The grooming, brainwashing, & the sexual abuse that has gone on & sadly continues to go on within the Mormon Church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) is abominable. Something that is so egregious & wrong needs to be stopped…Now!
    Thanks for sharing your story.

  3. Jay

    As someone who went through something similar, sorry to say, but your parents and certainly the church were complicit. Instead of going to the police, they tried to handle it internally. The Mormon church can get away with that because priests are one of the few people who don’t have to report abuse to authorities, and since almost every man is a “priest” in the church, that basically covers that. That doesn’t make your parents bad people or mean they don’t love you, but they were brainwashed by the church and by B and made poor decisions as a result. My parents also put me in situations that led to my abuse as well, in a religious community. I still see now how they self-justify, “forget,” and deny what happened to me and others. I see the same thing in your parents – especially the self-justification aspects of it. That doesn’t mean they don’t love you or don’t understand what happened was wrong, it just means that they are dealing with a high level of cognitive dissonance about what really happened, probably to cope with the guilt. If you still believe they are totally “blameless” or are “perfect parents,” then it seems like you are dealing with that too. That’s fine, it’s natural and normal, but it should be addressed by (secular) professionals. No one is perfect, but you gotta own up to that very fact. Since you believe you are going to be with your family for all eternity, you gotta address that sometime… However, I do applaud you for trying to address grooming and abuse in the church and in tight-knit communities.

  4. Jay

    I would add the difference is that you were kids and your parents were adults. Obviously adults can be brainwashed and groomed, but there is still a difference between that happening to a child and an adult. A parent is ultimately responsible for their child’s well-being and should take ownership of that. They did not exercise good judgement. They should fully understand that and not make excuses, and you should not throw yourself into a dissonant loop of making excuses for them.

  5. Martine Dirick Smith

    That was absolutely outstanding! Like Gail Nicolaysen-Shrutleff said, “massive public service broadcast.” Everyone one who has watched “Abducted in Plain Sight” needs to listen to this to get a full picture and EVERYONE should watch the documentary.

    It’s not about throwing stones at the Mormon Church—in fact, these women don’t do that at all and it sounds as if all still attend—but it’s about getting our antennas up when something’s amiss and reporting! Report, report, report. Create a paper trail so that when it happens again with another child, there are dots to connect. It’s about each child.

    There’s a story going on in a private FB group right now which doesn’t have to do with sexual abuse but a mentally challenged woman put in nursery by a bishop who was warned not to, to the point that someone voted opposed, as she has been harsh with children before to the point of leaving a hand mark on a little one’s face and other instances. And yet the bishop redoubles, “God wants her there. We need to forgive.” Enough, enough, enough. The bishop is responsible, if the mentally challenged sister is not.

  6. Joy

    When they reveal that Berchtold targeted both mother and daughter, it brings to mind the twisted behavior of 19th century Mormon polygamists. Did Berchtold use that angle to further manipulate his victims? Did he tell them that this was some higher principle they were accessing?

  7. Britt

    I have really enjoyed listening to this and forwarded it to many. I really appreciate when they talked about if your radar goes up, say something. There have been a few instances I have felt that way and stood up to keep my kids away and avoid certain things and have no problem doing that. However I really have no proof. I am not going to change my kids’ interactions with these people but is it wrong to think of them in this negative way when really I don’t have more than a gut feeling that it is wrong.

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