Except for three pandemic-years, the Mountain West Medical Center has hosted a local Spring Women’s Health Expo in March during Women’s History Month, since 2005.
The 2023 Women’s Health Expo was held on March 25 at Tooele High School from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Expo featured a sit down luncheon catered by Hug-Hes Cafe in the school’s commons area with Jan Broberg as the keynote speaker followed by a book signing by Broberg.
Broberg is an actress, singer and dancer who has appeared in feature films, television series and stage productions. Born in Pocatello, Idaho, Broberg now lives in Ivins, Utah where she retired in June 2022 as the executive director of the Center for Arts at Kayenta.
Broberg’s life has been the subject of books, a Netflix show and a Peacock TV series.
Broberg started her presentation at the Women’s Expo by telling her story of abduction, abuse and recovery.
“In a room like this, I know that many of you are survivors,” she said. “We make it through hard things, don’t we? … We are talking about trauma today and this applies to all of us.”
Broberg’s story started when she was a child. She was groomed and abducted by a family friend not once, but twice, when she was 12, and again at 14.
Robert “B” Berchtold and his family moved to Pocatello, Idaho where Broberg and her family lived in 1972. The Broberg family quickly became friends with Berchtold and his family. The two families became so close that Broberg considered Berchtold her second father and her family completely trusted him.
In the fall of 1974, Broberg was supposed to go horseback riding with Berchtold and his family. Instead she was drugged and woke up tied to a bed by her arms and legs.
She was sexually assaulted and abused. Berchtold warned her that if she told anybody about what happened she would be vaporized and her little sister would be taken.
Broberg was found in Mexico by the FBI and returned home. Berchtold spent less than 20 days behind bars because no one believed anything bad happened to Briberg during the time she was taken, Broberg said.
Anyone can groom a child, including a parent, family member, friend, church leader, or community member. Abuse can happen anywhere including at home, school, church, or a community center, Broberg said.
In August 1976, Broberg was kidnapped by Berchtold a second time. During the time she was missing, which was around four months, the abuse continued.
Broberg was eventually found at a Catholic boarding school in California. Berchtold was caught and arrested. He was sent to a psychiatric hospital, where he stayed a few months, she said.
“When you already trust someone in your family, neighborhood, your congregation, or your community center, you don’t let other information come through, even if your spidey-sense goes off for a moment, you do the secondary-thought thing, like ‘I’m just being judgmental,” Broberg explained. “You think, they wouldn’t do that. … Our job is to recognize it, stop it, and remove the children or the predator. We can’t give access to predators any longer.”
During her presentation, Broberg also talked about healing from abuse, advocating for change related to sexual abuse, and providing a safe space for those who need to talk about what has happened to them.
After telling her story, Broberg talked about the statistics of sexual assault and child abuse.
“I know at least 25% of the women in this room are survivors and you are still living in silence,” she said. “I know if I were to ask you if you are a survivor or if you are close to a survivor, I can guarantee that you know someone who has been through some sort of sexual assault, trauma, or abuse. I’ve never been in a room where every hand didn’t go up. This is the pandemic of this world.”
Prior to the luncheon and speaker, Expo participants browsed booths in the small gym.
The booths included displays from Mountain West Medical Center — including laboratory services, women’s health, dietary, mammography, and a sexual assault team. Other local health clinics participated, including University of Utah Health, Tooele Vision Center, Mountain Land Physical Therapy, and other clinicians. They worked to educate women about different aspects of health.
Vendors and booths also included Tate Mortuary, The Balanced Stone, the Life’s Worth Living Foundation, Tooele City, and more.
Expo participants picked up small free items at the booths that they could use, including drink bottles, ice packs, chapstick, and pens, along with information and about resources offered by the booth’s sponsor.
Women were also able to visit each booth and check off spaces on their bingo cards to be placed in a drawing for door prizes.
Since 2005, the goal of the event has been to promote women’s health in all aspects of their lives, including physical, mental, and emotional. Another continued goal has been to help women make educated decisions for their family’s health, according to Becky Trigg, public information officer at Mountain West Medical Center.
Because one in four women have been sexually assaulted or abused, organizers thought Broberg’s presentation this year would be important by helping the women who have survived know they aren’t alone, according to Trigg.
“This event was created, because women are often the decision makers for healthcare in their homes,” Trigg said. “It was a way to gather women together and allow them to make decisions of knowledge, and gather resources.
Throughout the years, there have been many different keynote speakers for the Expo including Elizabeth Smart, Amanda Dixon, Mary Nickles, Richard Paul Evans, and Amberley Snyder, according to Trigg.
“Each year we try to get a different keynote speaker that will resonate with the audience,” Trigg said. “We’ve had a lot of different stories, so women know they are not alone in the different things they face.”
This year, over 350 women gathered for the Expo.
At the end of the event, Broberg sat down to talk to women about their experiences, take photos with them, and sign two books that were available to purchase.
It was evident that Broberg’s message of surviving trauma was well received by the length of the line at her book-signing.
“The event this year went very well,” Diane Johnson, marketing event manager at Mountain West Medical Center said. “We had a lot of great feedback from the lunch and the speaker. The women were pleased with the presentation and it was very well received. The vendors were also very pleased at the turnout and enjoyed the event. They said they are excited to come back.”
Broberg has organized a foundation, The Jan Broberg Foundation, that seeks to empower survivors and stop abuse. For more information about the foundation, visit www.thejanbrobergfoundation.org. If you or someone you know is suffering from abuse, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673 for help.