With both Netflix’s ‘Abducted in Plain Sight’ and Peacock’s ‘A Friend of the Family’ delving deep into the horrific case of Jan Broberg, we get a true insight into how twisted some people can be. After all, as the titles suggest, not only was she taken at the ages of 12 and 14 back in the 1970s by neighbor Robert Berchtold, but he also quite literally brainwashed her innocence away. The youngster thus had to face unimaginable abuse simply because she trusted him, unaware that his plan to marry her was for his own sick intentions — so here’s what we know of their union.
Did Jan Broberg and Robert Berchtold Ever Marry?
It was on October 17, 1974, when Robert managed to convince Jan’s parents to let him pick her up from piano lessons, just to whisk her out rather than return home in the evening as promised. Everyone, including the youngster, believed they’d be going horseback riding, but he drugged her instead before driving off to an undisclosed location and tying her up in his waiting motorhome. That’s precisely where she later woke up, still “strapped to the bed, with an ivory box playing in my ear…[telling me] that I had been kidnapped by a UFO and was to do everything they told me.”
An impressionable Jan thus grew to believe she was a half-alien who needed to save the species by having a baby with her “male companion” — none other than Robert — before she turned 16. The fact he was filling up every gap and clearing every doubt she had regarding the situation further pushed her down this path, especially as he told her the aliens had spoken to him as well. She’d even been convinced the consequence of her not following through would be her vaporization, her youngest sister taking her place, and other family members being blinded or killed too.
Jan was utterly brainwashed over the ensuing five weeks, yet the worst of Robert’s grooming included him taking her to Mazatlan, Mexico, where the age of consent for marriage was 12 at the time. Though the adult did have another motive — he apparently thought this union would allow them to return to the US without issues, indicating he felt he could avoid charges for kidnapping this way. “[Robert] said because we wanted to come home, ‘they would not let me come back across the border if I did not have her married to me; I didn’t want to marry her,'” Jan explained in the Netflix original.
In other words, Jan and Robert did officially tie the knot in 1974, only for her parents to obviously, quickly get it annulled once they learned of it upon her safe rescue following a total of 35 days. However, as the former refused to divulge any details of what’d transpired owing to the “rules” of “the mission,” and a doctor also documented there were no signs of abuse since her hymen was intact, the latter essentially walked away with a slap on the wrist.
That’s how Robert managed to kidnap Jan again in August 1976, this time for four months, all the while unsuccessfully trying everything to convince her parents to let them marry again. We should mention the then-teen has since explained the reason behind her intact hymen, stating in ‘Abducted in Plain Sight‘ that she doesn’t “remember the violent kind of rape that I’ve heard other women talk about. Berchtold would insert his penis just slightly, barely. It was always just an inch. He almost was as concerned that it was an enjoyable experience for me as it was obviously for him.”