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Rape case against woman dropped

The charge against a woman accused of raping a man at a local domestic violence shelter were dropped Wednesday after the man decided he would not pursue the case.

"I didn't want to put my kids through it," the 34-year-old man said Wednesday from The Spring shelter. "If it wasn't for my kids, I would have pursued it."

The man, who sought refuge at the shelter because of domestic violence in his family, said, "I feel like a victim again."

Jennifer Lee Patnaude, 18, arrested Sunday on a charge of sexual battery with slight force, was released from the Hillsborough County Jail on Wednesday afternoon. She could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but she has strongly denied the allegations.

"This is ridiculous, and God is going to punish him for it," she said Tuesday in an interview from jail. "I did not do it."

Karen Stanley, who oversees sex offense prosecutions for the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office, said that when a victim declines to prosecute "there's no evidence to present to a jury."

"He's the only person who can say that a sexual act occurred without his consent," Stanley said.

The man, whose name is not being used because of the nature of the allegations, came to The Spring on May 31 with his three children after he had been abused by his wife. On the shelter's patio, where residents socialize, he met Patnaude, whose boyfriend was charged with beating her earlier this month.

He said she made sexually suggestive gestures to him and that he later awoke from a nap in his room to find her performing oral sex on him. He said he told her to leave.

The man, who walks with a cane because of a degenerative back disease, said that on Friday night he had taken extra pain medication before going to bed. Early Saturday, he said, he awoke to find the woman having sex with him. His three children were in the room as well.

"I panicked. I started yelling," he said. "She grabbed her pants and ran out of the room."

Patnaude originally told police she had not had sex with the man, but later told a reporter she twice had consensual sex with him.

The man reported the Saturday incident to Spring officials and was taken to the Hillsborough Crisis Center, where he was examined and counseled.

The man said he found the media attention that followed Patnaude's arrest embarrassing.

"If I raped her, do you think the news would have come to jail and interviewed me?" he said. "I just feel discriminated against. Anyone can be victimized."

Wednesday, he met with a sex crimes detective and Stanley, the prosecutor, who talked to him and others at The Spring about what happened.

He said he was distressed to hear of the problems of prosecuting the rare case of a woman raping a man and to learn that a defense lawyer would likely be allowed to question his children, who were in the room that night.

"We tell victims what we think they should expect," Stanley said. "We don't want people to be victimized twice."

He ultimately decided not go forward with the case.

"My kids have been through an awful lot in the last few years," he said.

The man said that as the male victim of domestic violence, he has been "laughed at, ridiculed by police."

But he had nothing but kind words for The Spring, one of the few shelters he found willing to take in a man who needed help.

"This is one wonderful place," he said. "They have helped my kids so much."

_ Times staff writer Jeffrey Gettleman contributed to this report.