Abducted In Plain Sight is not a fictional series. There are no tortured heroes, lovable bad guys, or anti-hero grey characters. It’s a Netflix documentary following the 1970s kidnapping and brainwashing of 12-year-old Jan Broberg by her trusted neighbor Robert ‘B’ Berchtold. These are real people with real lives who made some very real mistakes.
After finishing the documentary, I felt an immediate need to open Word and repeatedly type “WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK” while trying to put together thoughts on several things shown in the documentary for this article. This isn’t some in-depth analysis explaining every detail of the kidnapping and the effect it had on the victim and her family. It’s a recap of the top five things that made my blood boil, confused me, or made me want to die on the inside from the sheer insanity.
1) Where the 1970s Really That Laid Back?
Listen up. I know that times have changed, and with it the cynicism that comes with not trusting people and certainly not with your children. But let us also not forget that Ted Bundy was also out here murdering and raping women at the same time that Jan Broberg was kidnapped by her neighbor. There had to have been some feeling of unrest when everything was happening.
The parents were already aware that this man had shown a “special interest” in Jan and it disturbed them but the mother thought nothing of just letting this man take their child, alone, out horseback riding? And then waiting not one, not two, but FIVE days to report her gone to the FBI because you didn’t want to alarm and upset the wife of the man that has taken your kid? Was that the norm back then? I wasn’t even a twinkle in my mother’s eye at the time, so I am genuinely asking. Were the 70s a time to care more about your neighbor than your children?
2) Mom and Dad and Neighbor Makes…
So, let me get this straight. Your neighbor kidnaps your child, brings her to Mexico, marries her, gets arrested for kidnapping, blackmails you with the homosexual affair that he had with your husband to get the charges dropped, and yet somehow…you still manage to have an eight-month sexual affair with the man after all of this? Not only were you still having contact with the man AT ALL after he took your kid, you somehow convinced yourself that having sex with him after he’s already ruined your marriage and destroyed your family, was perfectly fine and dandy. I understand attraction, I do. But at what point does your brain kick in and make you second guess….any of that?
3) I Can’t Even Title This Section, It’s Just WHAT?!
Show of hands: your daughter is kidnapped by a dude. Daughter gets returned but is withdrawn from her father, acting out in anger, and is insisting on seeing the dude who abducted her. So…you send her off to him?! Even after both you and your husband have had an affair with the guy and he’s taken your kid, and has lied to you, and has admitted to being in love with your now 13-year-old child? That seems okay to you? That seems like the appropriate parental course of action? Not, I don’t know, therapy?!
4) Abducted…Take Two
Your child disappears again. You wait two weeks to report it to the FBI because of the embarrassment of the first time around. Then you continually talk to the dude who you think has taken her again, sharing updates, getting comfort, etc etc etc. I…just…no. Just no.
I need to know the thought process here. I really and truly do because I don’t get it. Then finally, when your daughter is returned for a second time and her personality has completely changed and she’s “a hollow shell of who she used to be” you still don’t think it’s time for therapy or some sort of counseling? The poor girl was suffering from poor delusions that she had an alien mission to procreate with a 40 year old man, which granted, you didn’t know, but a licensed psychologist might have been able to realize and draw out of her.
5) The Law and Order of it All
Ten days in prison for kidnapping a child, taking her to Mexico, marrying her, etc etc etc. Ten. Days. TEN DAYS. He was potentially getting more time as an old man who was carrying a gun and hitting people with his car in the early 2000s before he committed suicide to avoid it. There’s a lot of social commentary I could insert here: the war on women and how little our lives mean to TPTB, the fact that he was a mildly successful white male, the people in charge and how fair is it that they get to dole out punishment when they’re biased, etc. But I won’t.
As an abuse survivor who will never get to see justice be served, I can only hope this documentary serves as a wake up for us all. It should make us more aware of the people around us, to make us more accountable to see something/say something, to protect our loved ones and ourselves from predators, and for those who are meant to serve and protect us, to make sure they are always doing what is best for the victim and not just for the guilty. I hope that this documentary fills everyone who watches it with the same feeling of rage and injustice that it did me, not because they’re judging the parents or the police or the judges, but because we want to do better, that we want to be better.
And we can be.