Child advocacy ‘essential’ in sex assault cases

John Balyo in court. (June 23, 2014)

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — Thought it’s not easy to tell or hear, Battle Creek police say, the testimony of an 11-year-old boy was crucial in prosecuting a longtime Christian radio host for sexual assault.

John Balyo, 35, faces one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. He was arrested June 20 at a Christian music festival in Gaylord. Christian station WCSG, where he worked, cut ties with him the next day.

The bench warrant for Balyo’s arrest says the alleged assault happened May 17 at the Marriott Hotel on Beckley Road in Battle Creek. The warrant says an 11-year-old told police that Balyo made him perform oral sex while Balyo fondled the boy.

“My heart goes out to the victim, but it really helps us a lot,” Battle Creek Police Department Det. Sgt. Jim Martens said.

When the victim was identified, Martens said, he was taken to counselors at the Children’s Advocacy Center, a part of Sexual assault Services of Calhoun County.

The process of getting victims to provide information is a difficult one, experts say.

Joyce Seigel, the program manager for the agency, has worked with sex abuse victims since 1997. It is not her job to help police or prosecutors — unless it is the victim wants that.

“It is painful to have to testify about what has happened, to have to face the offender in court,” Seigel said. “All of that is really painful, so we work with our partners to do the very best for them whatever our victim wishes.”

Seigel says whether or not they testify, almost every victim fares better with counseling, which is the agency’s primary mission.

Police say in the Balyo case, they are thankful for the break.

“They (the Children’s Advocacy Center counselors) know how to handle children who come from these situations. They do a tremendous amount of work with us and they are essential to our investigations,” Martens said.

Target 8 learned Balyo told investigators about a storage unit in Plainfield Township that contained several disturbing items including duct tape, handcuffs, zip ties and chains.



Children’s Advocacy Center

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