Piano teacher’s arrest comes during national discussion on child sex abuse

PORTLAND, Ore. — UPDATE: Griffin was acquitted of all charges on Dec. 19, 2019 by Washington County Circuit Judge Oscar Garcia on Dec. 19.

The arrest of a Sherwood piano teacher on child sex abuse charges comes at a time when the recent documentaries on Michael Jackson and R. Kelly have brought the crimes into the spotlight.

There’s been a lot of focus recently on child sex abuse; how a predator grooms a child, and even their family. Experts say the heightened awareness will make parents better at spotting abuse.

Chris Griffin, 29, was bailed out of jail on charges of sodomy, sexual penetration and sex abuse of a child. Sherwood Police say the alleged abuse happened at his parent’s business called Let’s Make Music And Dance. It’s a private home where he taught piano and guitar.

Police said a longtime student of Griffin’s came forward and search warrants found enough evidence to make an arrest. Griffin wasn’t at home when KGW stopped by Monday, but his wife’s family says she’s understandably in shock over the allegations against her husband.

RELATED: ‘He will be exonerated’: Mother of Sherwood piano teacher accused of sexually abusing student says he’s innocent

Griffin’s mother, the owner of the music school, wrote on the website, “While we feel terrible for anything that happened to this child, Christopher is innocent, and he will be exonerated in court. Just to make everyone comfortable… Christopher will not be working here while the charges are pending.” 

Griffin has no criminal past.

The arrest comes at a time when America is debating the documentary “Leaving Neverland” about Michael Jackson’s alleged child sex abuse; along with “Surviving R. Kelly,” with accounts from underage girls who said that the singer abused them; and the popular Netflix documentary “Abducted In Plain Sight,” which shows in graphic detail how a predator grooms a whole family in order to have sex with a young girl.

“The more information out there and the more it’s brought out into the light, the better,” said Brian Longworth, a licensed professional counselor in Tigard. He’s counseled both sex offenders and victims for 15 years. He says most predators have practiced grooming techniques for years.

“Most offenders I worked with, I’m not sure they consciously thought through how they were grooming because they were lying to themselves as much as they were lying to the kids. A lot of them would think of this as a loving relationship, it just happened to be with a 10-year-old,” said Longworth.

That’s why a lot of young kids don’t recognize it as abuse, like the men interviewed in “Leaving Neverland.”

Longworth says young kids don’t know anything about sex, but they trust the person and feel loved, so they think it must be okay. But he says, unless there’s a custody dispute where a parent has put a kid up to lying, they’re usually always telling the truth about abuse, because they wouldn’t risk the embarrassment.

“Trust what your kids are saying about adults. One of most harmful things is kids tell the parents and it’ll be about this trusted person that’s either a friend or a family member and the parents don’t want to believe it. The parents should trust the kids and talk about what they’re doing with adults around and if a parent doesn’t know the adult really well, I would suggest not having your kid around an adult alone.”

Other tips:

Longworth says don’t cut to the chase and just ask a child if they’ve been touched. They’ll just clam up. Longworth says you’ve got to get them talking. So instead, start generally, asking how do they feel about “so and so”? What kinds of things do they talk about? Do they ever make you feel uncomfortable?

He says the child will start to open up and talk, then slowly reveal anything that happened. In addition to never leaving your child alone with an adult you don’t know very well, he says if it’s a one-on-one situation, like a math tutor or music teacher, parents should stop by unexpectedly to their lesson or ask to sit-in on a lesson. If you get excuses or push back, you know there’s a reason and you should start asking questions.