Elizabeth Holmes testified that her ex-boyfriend and former Theranos COO emotionally and physically abused her

Elizabeth Holmes testified that her ex-boyfriend and former Theranos COO emotionally and physically abused her
Former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes and former Theranos COO Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani.Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images (Holmes). Justin Sullivan/Getty Images (Balwani)
  • Elizabeth Holmes testified that her ex-boyfriend, Ramesh Balwani, was sexually abusive.
  • Theranos founder Holmes said Balwani controlled when she ate and slept.

During her fraud trial on Monday, Elizabeth Holmes testified that she was physically and emotionally abused by her ex-boyfriend and business partner, Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani, The New York Times reported.

Holmes, 37, the founder of Theranos, faces charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The US Department of Justice accused Holmes of being involved in schemes to defraud investors, doctors, and patients by making deceptive claims about Theranos and its blood-testing technology.

Balwani, 56, faces the same charges but goes to trial next year. Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

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According to The Wall Street Journal, Holmes' "tearful and intense" testimony included divulging that she had been raped while a Stanford University student.

She said the rape led her to drop out and decide to "build a life by building this company," referencing Theranos. It was then that she said she grew closer with Balwani and began a relationship with him.


"He said that I was safe now that I had met him," Holmes said, the Journal reported.

As Insider previously reported, Holmes and Balwani were in a 10-year relationship that ended in 2016. Balwani, former COO of Theranos, joined the company in 2009.

The Times reported that Holmes testified that Balwani controlled what she ate, what her schedule looked like, and kept her away from her family.

Holmes also testified that Balwani sexually assaulted her during their relationship.

"He would force me to have sex with him when I didn't want to because he would say that he wanted me to know he still loved me," Holmes said on the stand, the Times reported.


The Times reported that while Holmes seemed confident as her company grew, she said on the stand that Balwani would criticize her.

"He told me that I didn't know what I was doing in business, that my convictions were wrong, that he was astonished by my mediocrity, and that if I followed my instincts I was going to fail," she said, according to The Times.

Holmes said Balwani on several occasions told her to "become a new Elizabeth" so she could succeed in her business.

She moved out of the home she shared with Balwani after regulators inspecting Theranos' lab found significant problems in 2016 and said she had believed her company's technology worked up until then, the Times reported.

Holmes said the inspection made her view Balwani differently. "He wasn't who I thought he was," she said, the Times reported.


Holmes' attorneys previously told Insider they planned to accuse Balwani of abuse to bolster their argument that she wasn't making her own decisions during the time prosecutors allege she was working to defraud investors and doctors.

Prosecutors in Holmes' trial also released text messages between Holmes and Balwani that offered a glimpse into their relationship and how they ran Theranos.

Michele Hagan, a legal analyst and former prosecutor, said the previously released texts between Holmes and Balwani "don't show abuse or any kind of difficulty between the two of them."

"One of the defenses possibly could be that she didn't have the intent to defraud because she was being controlled and abused by Balwani. In that case, you would anticipate you would see some kind of control issues at work. But those texts don't indicate that," Hagan previously told Insider.

Lawyers for Holmes and Balwani did not respond to Insider's email request for comment at the time of publication. A lawyer for Balwani that attended Holmes' testimony denied the abuse allegations against his client, the Journal reported.