Holmes recounts sexual, emotional abuse by Theranos exec Balwani – Ars Technica

Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos Inc., arrives at federal court in San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday, November 23, 2021.
Enlarge / Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos Inc., arrives at federal court in San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday, November 23, 2021.

In a day of intense and emotional testimony, Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes told the court of the sexual, physical, and emotional abuse she said she suffered at the hands of company president and chief operating officer Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani and others.

Balwani was Holmes’ boyfriend for more than a decade, much of it during their time leading Theranos, the failed blood-testing startup. The pair hid their relationship from investors and Theranos employees. Balwani has pleaded not guilty to the same fraud and conspiracy charges Holmes faces. His trial begins next year.

Holmes’ attorneys said she met Balwani in 2002 on a language-immersion trip in China. She was 18 years old at the time and a senior in high school. He was in his late 30s and pursuing an MBA at the University of California, Berkeley.

The next year, Holmes attended Stanford University to study chemical engineering. On the stand, she said she was raped during her first year at college, an experience that pushed her to leave school and start Theranos.

“I was questioning how I was going to be able to process that experience and what I wanted to do with my life. And I decided that I was going to build a life by building this company,” she told the court.

Holmes dropped out of Stanford in 2004 to focus on Theranos. Shortly thereafter, she reached out to Balwani and told him about her sexual assault at Stanford. “He said that I was safe now that I had met him,” she testified.

“Astonished by my mediocrity”

Holmes and Balwani started dating in 2005 and soon moved in together. By all accounts, their relationship was intense, and Holmes testified yesterday that Balwani soon grew abusive. He told her how to behave, criticized her tone of voice, and told her she “came across as a little girl and needed to be more serious and pointed and not be giddy in my interactions.” Balwani even went so far as to prescribe her diet and schedule, and he left her handwritten notes, one of which read, “I do not react. I am always proactive. I know the outcome of every encounter. I do not hesitate.”

“He told me he didn’t know what I was doing in business, that my convictions were wrong,” Holmes testified. 

“He was astonished by my mediocrity,” she said. 

“I needed to kill the person I was,” Holmes said Balwani told her, “to become the ‘new Elizabeth.’”

Later in court, Holmes testified that Balwani would become sexually abusive when he became angry. “He would get very angry with me, and then he would sometimes come upstairs in our bedroom and he would force me to have sex with him when I didn’t want to because he wanted me to know that he still loved me,” she said.

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