This story below and the report in the video player above discuss instances of sexual violence and may be upsetting for some readers or viewers.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A woman is suing a Columbus medical practice, accusing an employee of sexual misconduct.
Unyime Williams originally came to the United States from Nigeria on a student visa, before taking a job at Walmart. Williams said things were going well; she received multiple promotions and eventually became a manager.
Williams applied for her green card. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires all green card applicants to undergo a medical examination. The examination must be performed by a doctor designated by USCIS as what’s called a civil surgeon.
The government website lists civil surgeons by location, which is how Williams found Trust Medical Services on South Hamilton Road in 2021.
The evaluation includes a mental health screening, screenings for various communicable diseases, and vaccinations. Unsure of what to expect at the doctor’s office, Williams chose to trust the professionals.
“It was just like a series of, you know, meeting different people in different rooms,” Williams said. “And I went in [a room], and I saw a guy with a coat or white coat and actually thought it was a doctor.”
Williams said the conversation with the man in the white coat began normally, until he said, “take off your shirt for me.”
Williams obliged and unbuttoned her shirt.
“At first I did not know what he was talking about, because I did not expect him to admire my breasts, you know?” Williams said. “He said, ‘This is nice. I like this. This is beautiful.’ And I got a little bit uncomfortable. But then, like I said, to me, this is a doctor. So I did not want to accuse anyone of what they were not really doing.”
The man in the white coat is named in the lawsuit and accused of battery, as well as infliction of emotional distress. He is not charged with a crime.
Williams said the man pulled one side of her bra down and touched her breast.
He then collected a blood sample from her arm, which Willliams said was exposed before she unbuttoned her shirt.
“I started kind of like trying to close my shirt a little bit,” Williams said. “And then he said, ‘No, no, no. Leave that open for me.'”
Williams said the phlebotomist asked for her phone number and offered to help her “pass” her medical exam. She wrote down her number, and he left.
“It was at the end of this that I realized what happened,” Williams said. “As I was walking out, I was so scared. I sat in the car, I couldn’t drive for maybe at least 10 minutes.”
This happened in 2021, and Williams said she has not heard from the man since. Her attorney does not know if he is still employed at Trust Medical, which did not respond to emails from NBC4. Two phone calls to the medical practice were placed on hold for extended periods of time.
Williams returned to Trust Medical days later for another round of vaccinations. She decided to report the incident and record her conversation with a receptionist on her cell phone.
“He reached into my bra– this side of my bra — and lifted it with his hands like that, and looked inside to see my nipples,” Williams can be heard telling the female receptionist.
“I’ll let you stop right there,” the receptionist replies. “‘Cause you are not the first person.”
“I’m not the first person?” Williams asked.
“No,” the receptionist said.
The receptionist appears to sympathize with Williams, telling her she was aware of at least two other complaints against the same phlebotomist.
“The only thing I will tell you, it’s going to be hard to win since you really don’t have a video or something,” the receptionist tells Williams after calling a manager to report the incident. “But I want to remove him from here. That’s my own– my goal, because I don’t want him to do it to another person ever again.”
The receptionist, who is not named in the lawsuit, explained to Williams that she did not want to directly involve herself with the issue because she and the phlebotomist immigrated from the same country, and she was worried he would spread rumors about her. (The receptionist does not name the country in the recording.)
“Just imagine the women that have suffered because of this,” Williams said. “It made me so scared.”
David DeVillers, the attorney representing the phlebotomist, said he could not comment on the lawsuit, but said his client no longer works at Trust Medical.
Williams said her life has not been the same over the past two years.
“For very long time I stopped working. Because I was so scared to be around men,” Williams said. “I’m constantly having panic attacks. I’m constantly just looking over my shoulder.”
Williams said her parents nearly convinced her to move back to Nigeria.
“But then I thought about it. Just running away from it is not going to solve it,” Williams said. “Maybe I’m the only voice, because maybe the reason why the other women refuse to… speak up is because they just could not. Because as Africans — especially African women — we’re not allowed to talk about things like this.”
A lawsuit filed in July by attorney Daisy Ayllon on Williams’s behalf seeks to hold the phlebotomist and his employers, Trust Medical Services and Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings (Labcorp) liable. In addition to the claims against the phlebotomist, the lawsuit accuses Trust Medical and Labcorp of negligence.
“This is a clinic that caters to immigrant community and immigrant women,” Ayllon said. “And immigrant women are particularly vulnerable to being subjected to these types of insults by medical professionals.”
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, immigrants are particularly vulnerable to sexual misconduct because of language and cultural barriers, fears that asking for help will lead to deportation, and a lack of information on sexual assault.
“The reason that this individual was able to be there and be so successful at victimizing women is because the companies that employed him didn’t do anything to educate women and empower women to speak out to make sure that they understood the process,” Ayllon said. “It’s never okay for any employee to ask a woman to disrobe in front of them whenever they’re going there for any type of medical examination.”
The phlebotomist, Trust Medical and Labcorp each filed separate answers in response to Williams’s complaint, denying the allegations.
A spokesperson for Labcorp said the company does not comment on pending litigation.
Williams hopes that by sharing her voice in court, it can be heard by others who might be scared to speak up and empower them to come forward.
Help and resources for victims of sexual assault are available at RAINN.org, or through the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673.