ST. GEORGE — A survivor of child sexual assault and subject of the Netflix documentary “Abducted in Plain Sight,” Santa Clara resident Jan Broberg will be presented with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s highest honor – The Hope Award – at a ceremony Saturday in Washington, D.C.
Broberg is being recognized for her advocacy and public outreach on behalf of children at risk of assault – particularly by someone they know.
According to a press release submitted to St. George News from Merrie Campbell-Lee, this prestigious award comes from an organization that understands the impact exploitation has on victims, and thus recognizes the courage it takes for any victim to heal from their trauma and realize their potential.
The NCMEC also understands the extraordinary tenacity it takes for a victim to become a bold, outspoken advocate who protects others from the same trauma they endured. These are among the reasons NCMEC has chosen to honor Broberg during its special 35th anniversary award ceremony.
Recently, the press release stated, Broberg’s advocacy work has been overshadowed by the fact that the documentary detailing the lurid story of her own kidnappings, based on the book her mother wrote, went viral after airing on Netflix in January. Broberg’s life has been nonstop. Not only is she the executive director of the Center for the Arts at Kayenta, but she is also in high demand for interviews.
Just about every major national news organization or talk show, including “The View,” “Dr. Oz,” “E! News” and “People Magazine” – not to mention international media outlets – have leapt at the chance to hear more details about her kidnappings and get answers to everyone’s big question: How could such a horrible thing have happened right under her parents’ noses?
“Abducted in Plain Sight” tells the story of how Robert Berchtold, a close family friend, over a three-year period of time was able to build trust, groom Broberg’s parents and eventually kidnap her and sexually abuse her.
The backlash to the documentary has been fierce. Some viewers have expressed disgust at the bizarre details and outrage that her parents could have been so naïve. Rather than focusing on the predator himself, much of the anger has been directed at Broberg’s parents.
Broberg has chosen to step into the tsunami of negativity and speak out, telling her story in countless interviews in hopes of educating people on just how “possible” it was for something like this to happen, especially if you understand the concept of “grooming.” In the release, Broberg said the following:
I understand why people blame my parents. They were fooled. And they were not innocent. But keep in mind, it’s impossible for most people to imagine that your friend, your brother or grandfather or, say, a favorite school teacher who just won teacher of the year is capable of something so heinous. My parents just could not imagine that our trusted friend – whose family sat by us in church – could do something so horrible. And when you don’t conceive of that possibility, you’re blind to all the subtle warning signs staring you in the face. Berchtold groomed my parents, he groomed me… he groomed everyone.
Educating the public about grooming and recognizing warning signs are key messages Broberg is sharing with the world. Grooming, when used to describe the actions of pedophiles, is when someone builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or trafficking.
“Ninety-seven percent of the time, abuse happens by someone you know, love and trust,” Broberg said. “The whole idea of abuse being committed by a stranger is a myth.”
Her assertion is backed up by many long-term statistics. The National Center for Victims of Crime website cites that only 14% of children who suffered sexual abuse were violated by an unknown perpetrator.
Broberg’s advice for people wanting to protect children is to learn the covert warning signs and then look for them.
“Trust your gut,” she said. “If you notice a child’s behavior changes around a certain person—even if it’s a family member or someone you love and trust—raise your antenna. Pay attention, and if you notice any signs of inappropriate conduct, take action.”
She advises reporting concerns to police, the child’s school counselor, anyone who can intervene on the child’s behalf.
“Instead of ignoring it or making an excuse,” she said. “Get outside your comfort zone if you think this child could be helped. This can be the difference that child needs to be saved from a predator.”
Broberg’s sister Susan, who lived through the family’s ordeal and is featured in the documentary, said in the release that she is “incredibly proud” of her sister and the work she is doing. She said:
She finds the good in life and in people. Her commitment to helping end the silence [surrounding] abuse and to educate people about grooming and other methods predators use has already touched millions of lives. She is the voice of courage and strength for many who are still in the shadows, lost in guilt or shame, and those who are finding their own way to end the silence. Jan is truly a force to be reckoned with.
The 35th annual NCMEC award ceremony takes place May 18 in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. Broberg will be taking her mother as her guest. For more information visit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website.
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