Const. Bojan Novakovic flatly denies that he asked Carrie Low inappropriate questions about her sexual assault.

Low complained about the Halifax Regional Police Department’s handing of the investigation into her assault. Through that process, Novakovic was found negligent with regards to collecting evidence related to the assault, and was docked eight hours pay. Low has appealed that decision to the Police Review Board, and has further asked the board to review the actions of the entire police department.

Low was sexually assaulted in the early hours of May 19, 2020. At around noon that day, she showed up at Dartmouth General Hospital to report the rape. A pair of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) — Jane Collins and Samantha Sarty — conducted the four-hour post-assault examination, during which Low said she wanted to report the assault to police.

Novakovic, a patrol officer, was dispatched to the hospital at about 4pm.

Last week, Collins and Sarty testified before the board.

“I thought he was badgering [Low],” Collins testified. “He just kept asking questions and she was crying. You know, to me, you don’t do that to someone who has gone through what, four hours, four and a half hours, of a sexual assault exam.”

“Basically, what I remember, and I mentally noted, is that [Novakovic] was asking [Low] a lot of ‘Why’ questions, that started with ‘Why,’ a lot of challenging questions,” testified Sarty.

Novakovic’s account

Today, Novakovic contradicted the nurses’ testimony.

Novakovic said that Low’s report was the first time he responded to a cooperating adult sexual assault victim in the hospital. He had been a cop for about four and a half years. In the five years since, he said he’s only had one other such response.

Novakovic said he remembered arriving at the hospital and that an attendant brought him to the examination room.

Immediately upon entering that room, I was greeted by Ms. Collins and Ms. Sarty,” testified Novakovic. “And Ms. Collins immediately looked me up and down and strongly suggested to me that it would be more appropriate for a female to arrive and investigate this, and she had an issue with the fact that I was in uniform, and attempted to tell me that I was breaching protocol by being in uniform.”

“Ms. Collins was almost confrontational and I didn’t find it professional or appropriate,” he continued. “And, for lack of a better word, the hostility was almost immediate.”

Novakovic said he was responding as he was trained to respond, and that he was following the procedures he was taught in trauma-informed response training. He said he told Collins as much.

Novakovic said he went further back into the room, where Low was sitting with her daughter. He pulled a privacy curtain around the area, introduced himself, asked Low if she wanted to report the assault. Low said she did, and Novakovic commenced an interview that lasted 30-45 minutes.

“A few minutes into the interview,” Novakovic continued, “Ms. Collins interjected a second time by actually undoing the curtain, literally. She opened up the curtain and she says, ‘You know, you can’t be asking like that. It doesn’t sound like you believe her.'”

The two stepped away from Low and had a conversation.

“I was direct in maintaining that I was being professional,” said Novakovic. “I cared. I was empathetic. And I was conducting a proper initial interview with the survivor.”

Asked if he asked Low any ‘why’ questions, Novakovic answered with an emphatic “no.”

“‘Why’ questions tend to put the victim or survivor — any witness — in a box,” said Novakovic. “Because it can be seen as, and I can certainly appreciate how somebody could draw the conclusion, if I said, ‘why did you do this? why didn’t you do that?,’ I appreciate that can sound like I’m blaming the victim, but that didn’t occur.”

“The interactions with Ms. Low were great,” said Novakovic. “We had a rapport. I believe she trusted me by opening up to me. And I believe she trusted me because I had a calm and sincere approach.”

“I didn’t do anything wrong with Ms. Low.”

Low, it should be noted, disputes Novakovic’s characterization of their interaction, and we’ll get into that in more detail in a future article.

The hearing ended today. Lawyers for all participants will make submissions to the board by October, and then the board will issue a decision some time after that.

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. Two of the lawyers-one for the RCMP and one for the Solicitor Gen. – at the MCC repeatedly urged commissioners to be cognizant of the need for trauma informed considerations when police were questioned. It appears from what I just read that the police officer before this board did not get the training and education on proper protocols to follow in a case of this nature- sexual assault. He was also a young officer and did the work unassisted by a female officer- standard and expected procedure in such cases is my understanding . This is where the leadership has to take responsibility and not leave it to this officer to ‘ take one for the team’.
    Ms. Collins ,on the other hand, appears so informed and interceded as one would expect in such a situation.The two lawyers who urged trauma informed testimony from police witnesses at the MCC are female, and they would be aware -as would be police leadership- that investigations of this type would be best handled with a female officer involved in the taking of statements/ an information. The ruling will be significant and signalling at the same time.

  2. This conflicting testimony only reinforces the need for significant reform in how sexual assault complaints are addressed.