A full five years after Carrie Low reported to police that she had been drugged at a bar and then gang-raped, another woman has come forward with a similar nightmare. 

It’s not only that this 23-year-old woman reports she was drugged at a Halifax bar this past April and subsequently sexually assaulted by unknown men; it’s that her experience with law enforcement officers bears shocking similarities to Low’s:

  • She was not believed the first time she reported the assault. 
  • There was unprofessional, careless handling of potential evidence. 
  • It has taken strong advocacy on her part to ensure police follow up and search for her attackers before more women get hurt. 

The Halifax Examiner is calling her “S” to protect her privacy. Before we get into the graphic details, the reason she has agreed to share her story is:

Because what happened to me isn’t an anomaly. I see this as part of a pattern. It’s a crime that’s not taken seriously and yet it affects people for the rest of their lives.

After two and a half years living in downtown Halifax, S says she felt safe in this city. 

“I absolutely loved living here,” says S.

S says she’s coming forward with her story “because people need to know the risks. It’s a public safety issue.”

The other catalyst was learning through news media reports about Carrie Low’s struggle for justice after she had gone to police to report she had been drugged at a Dartmouth bar and then raped by at least two men.

“That was five years ago,” says S. “And yet police seem to be making the same mistakes in processing cases and following up. It’s alarming to think you have overwhelming evidence and being told it’s not enough to pursue.”

The assault

The assaults by multiple strangers took place in the early hours of Saturday morning, April 22, 2023.  S had gone to The Dome with a girlfriend and a couple of gay male friends earlier Friday night. It was her first time at The Dome, which is a downtown bar with a big dance floor popular with university students and young adults

S says they only ordered shots from the bar — Jaegerbombs — so they wouldn’t leave drinks unattended (a known risk) while they went to the dance floor or the bathroom. 

But S says after their gay friends left, “we were a little bit naïve when two women approached us and then we were hanging out with them for quite awhile. They were holding drinks in their hands and we thought they had been drinking from them when they offered us a sip.”

In hindsight, S believes “that very bad decision” may have set in motion the nightmare chain of events that unfolded. 

After the “sip,” S says police reviewed security camera footage obtained from The Dome and described it to her. By the police account, the video shows she and her friends swaying and having difficulty walking. S is escorted from The Dome by a male described to her as “a rough-looking individual about 6’4” wearing clothing with a Carhartt logo.”  

S is seen wearing the jacket of one of the two women who offered the “sips.” One of dozens of cameras captured the woman giving her jacket to the tall man who escorted (abducted?) S out of the bar. 

Surprisingly, bars in Nova Scotia are not required to have security cameras, but it’s a common business practice, according to JP Landry, executive director of the province’s Alcohol & Gaming division. 

After a violent brawl at The Dome on Christmas Eve 2007 (when police made 38 arrests), the bar was required to increase the number of its closed-circuit cameras as a condition of getting its licence back. It was also ordered to stop selling $1 drinks on Student Night.

S doesn’t remember leaving the bar. 

Her next conscious memory is being in the back seat of a car with a group of men. S says “every fibre of my being” told her she was in danger and at some point, maybe a red light, she says she opened the door and jumped out, injuring her ankle. 

She describes her terror as she fled down a hill toward what she thinks was the Fairview Lawn cemetery not far from the container pier. 

“I ran to the train tracks. I do remember them chasing me but at that point my strongest memory is about how I felt. There was a train coming and I just knew if I didn’t make it across the tracks before they got there, they were going to catch me and I wouldn’t get away again.”

Fade to black. S’s next memory is waking up in a car in a place surrounded by shipping containers. There is only one man in the car and he is sitting in the driver’s seat, smoking. He told S he was smoking was hashish and offered her some. 

S says it was about 5am. She says she tried to make conversation hoping he would let her go. She didn’t know if he was one of her original attackers or if he had just found her abandoned. 

S says the man tried to persuade her to stay and wanted to kiss her but she begged him to take her home. She says he backed off and did drop her a few blocks from her downtown Halifax apartment building (S pretended it was home so he wouldn’t know her actual address). 

After the car drove away, she walked the short distance to home. Her house keys were still in her jacket left at The Dome. She waited for another tenant to come and open the door, then crawled up the stairs to sleep. 

S goes to the hospital

Bright blue Halifax Infirmary signage against a blue sky.
Halifax Infirmary in July, 2021. Credit: Yvette d'Entremont

A few hours later, S awoke in the upper stairwell of her apartment building, covered in blood and with a very sore ankle. She limped to the IWK Women’s Health Centre and requested a rape kit. A doctor there directed her to the Halifax Infirmary. Even though she was alone and bloody, no attempt was made to arrange transportation.       

She limped another two blocks to the Emergency Department at the Infirmary, arriving shortly after 8am. 

“Weirdly, my badly sprained ankle was x-rayed within two hours and I got a urine test,” says S. “Then I waited until nearly 5pm for the rape test.” She was told the pair of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) were busy dealing with patients at another hospital.

In another surreal twist, while in the waiting room, S was reunited with the girlfriend who had accompanied her to The Dome the night before. 

The friend had come to the hospital looking for her after calling police to report S as a missing person. 

S says her friend told her she also woke up in an unfamiliar place with her pants around her ankles and no memory of getting there. S says her friend appeared to be in shock and had to be persuaded a rape test was necessary. 

S does not know the official results of her rape test because it has yet to be processed by the lab. The sample containing DNA is in a freezer. There’s no statute of limitations on sexual assault cases and HRP must hold on to potential evidence. 

SANE nurses work in pairs and S was told they are not supposed to give patients too much information in case they get called to court as witnesses.  

(According to the experienced nurse named Jane who examined S and claimed she had done hundreds of rape kits over the years, only about 1% of sexual assault cases ever get that far. From her memories of the nurse and recent photos, S thinks Jane was Jane Collins, the SANE nurse who also treated Carrie Low, but we’ve been unable to verify that.)

S understood that she had been raped and that her injuries included multiple tears and internal bleeding. That information came as the nurse examining her injuries was dictating to the second nurse doing the charting.

Fortunately, S had been using birth control. 

Unfortunately, the sexual assault nurse examiner told her the urine test she did upon arriving at Emergency would not be admissible in court — even if it showed date-rape drugs were in her system — because no health care worker had been present in the bathroom to verify the sample was hers. 

S says the urine test had been ordered because the enlarged pupils in her eyes were consistent with someone who had been strangled or on drugs.

By 5pm Saturday evening, she remembers being frustrated to learn it was too late to do another urine test because any drugs would already have left her system. 

Most of the date rape drugs such as GHB, Rohypnol, and ketamine have the ability to sedate people, erase all memories for the next few hours, and then disappear without a trace within hours of ingesting.  

S says:

I think if a valid urine test is needed to form part of a successful court case, then the procedure at the hospital needs to be aligned and health care workers held accountable.

S says “the only good part” of what has been a life-changing experience was the compassion shown by sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE) provided by the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre. 

S gladly accepted the phone numbers and information provided at the hospital. But later, S would be disappointed to learn the demand for Avalon’s free counselling services is so high, it would be at least two months before she could be seen. 

No immediate counselling is available unless you can pay privately or have health insurance. S says the insurance she has through her job is “good,” but “it has not covered all of my psychology and physiotherapy bills, so I am out quite a bit of money from those appointments. Without any work coverage, it would just not have been feasible at all.”.

Ironically, as a graduate of an Ontario university with a degree in criminology, S had thought she might get a job working with Victim Services. She never dreamed she might be a victim herself.

S is asked how she’s doing.

There’s a sharp intake of breath and S’s voice slows as she searches for words to express the turbulent feelings inside.

“It has definitely been very challenging,” she replies. “It’s very different from day to day.”

Are you sleeping ok?” 


The conversation moves on to how her case has been handled by police. 

Police “belittled me”

The main sign that reads Police Headquarters on the HRP building on Gottingen Street in June 2021.
Halifax Regional Police headquarters on Gottingen Street in June 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford Credit: Zane Woodford

Three male officers with the Halifax Regional Police arrived at the Infirmary Saturday morning shortly after the girlfriend who had reported S as a  “missing person” called the station to say she was found. 

S says she told these officers she was at the hospital to do a rape kit test because she believed she had been abducted from The Dome and sexually assaulted. 

She couldn’t identify her attackers or remember much after leaving the bar, but hoped her story would be believed and followed up. She says the officers appeared uninterested and did not take any notes.

“They belittled me,” says S. “They said the only crime they could see was that I had my jacket stolen.”

Early the next week, S called the station to voice her concern about the way she had been treated. She asked for her case number.  

“At that time, I was told there was no case number because no assault had been reported,” says S. “The only thing that was filed was a report saying I had a missing jacket.”

S says that’s when she became “really angry.” She insisted on talking to a female police officer and providing a more detailed statement. 

During the first few days after the assaults, more memories had bubbled to the surface. Because of her background in criminology, S knows the memory loss associated with alcohol and date rape drugs causes major problems for sexual assault investigations. She also knows other evidence may be available to assist an investigation — but only if police care enough to follow up.

S says she felt “really confident something was going to happen” after she went to the RCMP headquarters to be interviewed by two female officers the week after the assault. 

The interview went well and unlike the meeting in the hospital, these officers agreed to take the clothing S had saved in case it might help police find her attackers. She had put the torn and bloody pants she was wearing that April night in her freezer in case DNA might be found. (The underwear had been taken by the nurse examiner at the hospital). And she still had in the closet the jacket of the woman who had offered her “a sip,” hoping a hair or a fibre might connect to the owner. 

About a month later, S received a call from the RCMP. She says she learned her case had been moved from the sexual assault investigation unit to the major crimes division. 

The RCMP officer also told S that The Dome had provided video from the night of the assault which, although blurry, might help with their work. S says these were all positive steps in what is an active police investigation.

Parallels with Carrie Low

A blond-haired woman smiles slightly as she walks in a grey hallway.
Carrie Low at the Nova Scotia Police Review Board hearing in Dartmouth on Monday, July 10, 2023. Credit: Zane Woodford

But recently, S’s confidence has been shaken by noting the similarities between Carrie Low’s story and her own. 

It’s been three months since S was assaulted and no police officer has returned to pick up the pants which are still in her freezer, or to take the jacket. S’s father called police and offered to bring the clothes to the police station but was firmly instructed that’s not an option. 

That’s a procedural parallel with what Carrie Low experienced five years ago. 

In Low’s case, it was 10 days before police came back to collect her clothes. During a Police Review Board hearing last week, the investigating officer apologized for that mistake. 

In Carrie Low’s case, a year-long delay before her rape kit was sent to the lab for analysis was blamed on a paperwork error by another officer. The DNA found on Low matched that of Alexander Thomas, a man on the sex offender registry. Thomas was eventually charged with sexual assault but he was murdered before his trial began. 

S says her girlfriend has been told by police the rape tests she and S did in April have not yet gone to the lab because there are more urgent cases that take priority. 

For years it has been apparent more lab capacity is required to deal with forensic evidence from all types of crimes, but that’s another story. Sadly, this sounds like the same old story. What happened to S can’t help but raise questions about whether bars are safe places for young women. 

S looks younger than her 23 years. She doubts what happened at The Dome  was  “random.” The video footage connecting the two girls and her “escort” suggest it may have been orchestrated. 

If so, that raises the possibility S and her friend were being recruited for human trafficking.

“I do think we were targeted in the sense that someone was scoping out who was not in a large group or with a boyfriend to protect them,” says S. “I do think that’s why we were approached by two women and sort of separated so we didn’t have each other to help.”

S wonders if her experience is unique or if there may be other victims. So does the Examiner:

  • In May we asked the Halifax Police Department for an interview with a senior investigator from the Sexual Assault Investigative Team. No dice. 
  • We asked for information about reports of sexual assault that included allegations of drugging or drink tampering. According to public information officer Constable John MacLeod, that was “beyond the scope” of the department and would require filing a Freedom of Information request. He indicated drink tampering or drugging allegations may be captured by different databases or filters.
  • MacLeod did, however, provide requested information that shows that during the first four months of this year, 2023, the Halifax Police Department received 105 sexual assault complaints. That’s just for the area it patrols; it does not include Sackville or Cole Harbour, or other parts of the former Halifax County. Without reading all 105 files, MacLeod claimed he couldn’t tell the public how many may have included allegations of drugging, which is a separate Criminal Code offence.

JP Landry, the head of the province’s Alcohol and Gaming division responsible for regulating bars, says he knows of “no confirmed instances” of drink tampering in bars despite allegations made by women over the years. Landry says most bars are aware of the danger and more are taking proactive measures to protect themselves and their customers. 

Landry says it’s “common business practice” to install security cameras, and many bars now allow customers to take their drinks with them to the washroom. A few bars have begun serving drinks with plastic lids. 

Those precautions seem warranted. But what S wants to see is change in the way police treat women and potential evidence when someone comes forward and says they were sexually assaulted. It seems the bare minimum a citizen can ask. 

If you are a survivor of sexual assault and would like to share your experiences with how the police handled your investigation, we’d be happy to hear from. Anonymity is assured. Email survivor@halifaxexaminer.ca.

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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  1. Thank you for reporting on this. This is terrifying. I shared this article on facebook.

    1. You mean, you shared a link to the article, and not copied-and-pasted the whole article, right? 😉

  2. I can’t believe the way male police treat druged and bloody sexual assault victims.
    Jennifer Henderson’s report is extremely important. Hopefully this kind of gang rape can be prevented when police take it seriously.

    1. The Sexual Assault Investigative Team is composed of cops from both HRPD and the RCMP. It’s messy, and creates problematic lines of authority, among other issues. But the SAIT is based in the RCMP headquarters in Burnside.