Sex victim of ex-Dover Area teacher has PTSD, doctor says
The attorney for convicted child sexual abuser and former Dover Area School District teacher Matthew Puterbaugh aggressively cross-examined his client’s victim Tuesday during the second day of a civil trial in Harrisburg’s federal court.
“You keep insinuating that I’m making it up,” Puterbaugh’s victim told attorney Joseph Green Jr. about her assertion that Puterbaugh began having sex with her when she was 12 and started grooming her to be his victim when she was 11.
“I’m saying it — I’m not insinuating anything,” Green replied.
The 29-year-old woman, a former Dover Area student, is suing Puterbaugh for sexually abusing her and also suing the school district for allegedly failing to protect her from that abuse, which she maintains violated her federal civil rights.
She claims district employees convinced her not to pursue her accusations because he was a “good teacher” and that it would “ruin his career,” her lawsuit states.
She first met Puterbaugh when she was in fourth grade and started taking flute lessons from him through the school district.
The woman testified Monday, July 9, and again on Tuesday, July 10, that the abuse by Puterbaugh affected “every aspect of my life,” turning her from a good kid to a troubled child who acted out, got into fights and skipped school. She stopped attending Dover Area after 10th grade and for a short time went to a school for children with behavioral issues before enrolling in cyber school.
As an adult, she said, “I became an addict and I lost (custody of) my children.” Also, she said she’s been unable to have successful adult intimate relationships.
Pleaded guilty: In June 2015, Puterbaugh pleaded guilty in York County Court to statutory sexual assault and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse for having sex with the girl. Both charges are felonies.
He was sentenced to five to 10 years in prison, to run concurrently with the 15-year federal prison sentence he was already serving for possessing hundreds of images of child pornography and for inappropriately touching and secretly videotaping multiple young girls without their permission.
Now 51, Puterbaugh remains in federal custody. His release date is in August 2027, according to the federal Department of Corrections.
He maintains he didn’t have sex with the girl until she was 16 years old, which is the legal age of consent in Pennsylvania.
But the woman testified he impregnated her when she was 13 and that Puterbaugh arranged for her to have an abortion in Maryland, which her mother was aware of.
The woman testified that her mother and Puterbaugh were good friends and that she didn’t tell her mother at the time that it was Puterbaugh who had impregnated her.
Green’s cross-examination focused on comparing the woman’s testimony with her earlier deposition statement and highlighting what didn’t jibe. The cross-examination also stressed that as a girl, she had serious behavioral issues, such as lying, and also that she allegedly recanted her allegations against Puterbaugh.
Psychologist weighs in: Clinical psychologist Shari Kim, CEO of Susquehanna Valley Community Health Services, examined and diagnosed the woman in 2017. Kim testified Tuesday that the woman has post traumatic stress disorder from being sexually abused as a child.
Kim said acting out is a common symptom of children who suffer such trauma.
The woman continues to suffer nightmares and flashbacks but has a good prognosis if she completes therapy, the psychologist testified.
Kim said if the woman at some point as a girl recanted allegations she made about Puterbaugh, it was “because nobody believed her” and because “people in authority told a child to recant her statement.”
Responding to questions by Green, Kim said she saw nothing to indicate that the woman was motivated by the concept of “secondary gain,” such as attention seeking or monetary gain.
The woman’s parents both testified Tuesday that school officials never alerted them that their daughter twice told district employees that she and Puterbaugh were sexually involved.
Mother takes stand: The woman's mother confirmed on the witness stand that she and Puterbaugh became close friends after the flute lessons started.
She also confirmed her daughter was 13 when she became pregnant and that it was Puterbaugh who found the abortion clinic in Maryland and who drove the victim and her mother to the facility for the abortion.
Also testifying Tuesday was former Dover Area Intermediate School assistant principal Brandon Hufnagel. Under questions from plaintiff's attorney Farley Holt, Hufnagel started going over the district's policies on how to handle suspicions and allegations of child abuse, including sexual abuse and exploitation.
Hufnagel is expected to return to the witness stand at 9 a.m. Wednesday, when trial resumes.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.