"My parents are victims also," Jan Broberg, who is appearing at Crime Con in New Orleans this weekend, tells PEOPLE

By Laura Barcella
June 07, 2019 02:59 PM
Jan Broberg
Netflix

Few crime documentaries in recent memory have captured viewers’ imagination — and sparked more vitriol — than Abducted in Plain Sight, which told the harrowing story of Jan Broberg, a girl who was abducted twice by the same man in the 1970s, beginning when she was 12.

Broberg, now in her 50s, will be discussing those painful experiences — and how she eventually overcame them — at a panel discussion and meet-and-greet at this weekend’s CrimeCon 2019, an annual true crime festival from June 7-9 at New Orleans’ Hilton Riverside.

“My presentation will show clips from the doc and talk deeper about context and grooming,” she tells PEOPLE. “I want to explain more about how this kind of abuse can happen to regular, everyday families.”

RELATED: PEOPLE Explains: ‘Abducted in Plain Sight,’ the Terrifying True Story That Is Stranger Than Fiction

Skye Borgman’s 2017 film (currently streaming on Netflix) recounts the story of the Brobergs, a middle-class Pocatello, Idaho, family that became close with a charismatic neighbor named Robert Berchtold, as well as his wife and kids, in the ’70s.

The Broberg family in the '70s
Courtesy Jan Broberg

Members of the same congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Berchtold became a fixture in the Brobergs’ home, spending lots of time with parents Mary Ann and Bob as well as their daughters: Jan, Karen and Susan.

But the family’s friendship with Berchtold — whom the Brobergs call “B” in the film — took a dark turn when Berchtold, then in his late 30s, became sexually fixated on 12-year-old Jan. He went on to kidnap her twice and sexually assault her repeatedly as he concocted fantastical stories about aliens in an effort to brainwash her against fighting back.

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In the film, Mary Ann and Bob Broberg also claim that Berchtold manipulated them into engaging in their own separate sexual encounters with him.

Since the film’s release on Netflix (and its ensuing popularity), Jan — who works as an actor and runs Utah’s Center for the Arts at Kayenta — has been upfront about the lasting effects of the abuse she suffered as a child. She is vocal about recognizing pedophiliac grooming and warning signs of abuse, as well as educating people about how families can spot suspicious behavior.

She has also been vocal about defending her parents, whom she does not blame for her abuse.

“Many viewers think, ‘How could these parents not have seen it?’” Broberg says. “That’s the thing that continues to bother me: My parents are victims also.”

RELATED: How Jan Broberg of ‘Abducted in Plain Sight’ Forgave Her Parents

Broberg describes Mary Ann, 81, and father Bob (who passed away last year) as “the most wonderful, loving parents on the planet.”

Robert Berchtold and Jan Broberg
Courtesy Jan Broberg

She doesn’t fault them for being taken in by Berchtold. Why? Because, as Broberg tells it, he was a master manipulator who said and did all the right things, “getting everyone wrapped around his little finger” in order to maintain access to Jan. “Most people have a mistake they don’t want aired to the whole world,” she notes. “My parents were so courageous; they didn’t have to tell the whole world [what happened between them and Berchtold]. They told because they wanted people to see their mistakes and avoid making them too.”

Broberg is adamant that the blame for her abuse remains on Berchtold, the abuser. Berchtold, who died by suicide in 2005, eventually served a year behind bars for rape of a child, in an unrelated case.

“The manipulator was at fault. He was masterful and premeditated,” Broberg says. “When people don’t see it that way, he wins — and that’s hard for me. He should not be winning.”

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