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For Jake Lacy, playing a child predator in “A Friend of the Family” was an eye-opening experience.
The father of two’s character in the Peacock series is based on Jan Broberg’s abuser, Robert Berchtold, who embedded himself within the Broberg family. He’d go on to kidnap Jan and take her to Mexico, where he brainwashed her into believing that they were chosen by an alien civilization to have a baby together. He convinced her that if she told anyone about this so-called mission, her family would be hurt, or worse.
The Brobergs were initially hesitant to report Berchtold to the police, having been manipulated into believing that Berchtold wouldn’t hurt their daughter. They couldn’t believe that the man they allowed into their home could commit such an act of betrayal.
Lacy told Oxygen.com that playing out this story made him realize that his own “vigilance and paranoia surrounding my kids and adults in their lives” was justified.
“I think working on this project and speaking with Jan, it didn’t open new levels of paranoia, but it certainly made me go, ‘No, that’s right. That’s the right level of paranoia and constant vigilance to have around your kids,’” he explained.
Lacy said that he tries to dig for information when his kids mention a schoolteacher or someone that they particularly like but tries to do so in a way that’s calm, as to “not create paranoia and aggression in their lives.”
He noted that this is a tricky situation to address, but that working with Jan taught him the importance of speaking up.
“I think that Jan’s intention... is to say that silence is the thing that allows this to perpetuate. Cause, as she phrases it, no one wants to put grandpa in jail,” Lacy said. “It’s really easy when the predator is like a scary man in the shadows in an alley, to say, ‘It’s him!’”
However, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 93 % of the child sexual abuse incidents reported to law enforcement were perpetrated by a known acquaintance or a family member.
Lacy understands that it can be complicated when the abuser is someone you know, saying, “That’s where you start to internalize the responsibility in a way that isn’t accurate.”
But now, he understands that it’s better to be safe than sorry, because keeping concerns to yourself potentially “allows that person to either continue the abuse to you or others.”
Watch the series “A Friend of the Family,” which is based on Jan Broberg's experience and streaming now on Peacock.
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