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September 22, 2022 49 mins

From a harrowing, unstable childhood, Venus perseveres and creates an ideal life for herself—with an exuberant husband and a gaggle of amazing kids. But harrowing returns for her when she learns the dark truths—and lies—about her husband.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Family Secrets as a production of I Heart Radio Morning.
This episode contains discussion of abuse and suicide. Listener discussion
is advised. My childhood was very difficult. I share. One
of my first memories with my mother is sitting on

our knees by the sofa and my stepdad told me
to watch your fingernails and if our fingernails turned blue,
to call on one one. So it was very traumatic.
It's one of my early memories. I was in elementary
school and I remember growing up and you know, I
didn't want to invite friends over because I was ashamed

of the way we lived and I didn't want anyone
to know how my life really was. I just wanted
to be normal and pretend everything was okay. And I
didn't want them to come in the kitchen and turn
on a light, because when you turn the lights on,
you know, you see a gazillion roaches running everywhere, scattering.

That's Venus Maurice Griffin, single mother of seven, award winning
real estate agent and motivational speaker. Venuses is a story
of almost superhuman resilience and discipline, an homage to the
notion that where there's a will, there's a way. Away
out a way through a harrowing childhood that threatened to

repeat itself as such childhoods often do, often but not always.
Above all, this is one woman's journey from violence, secrecy,
and shame to a life filled with grace and love.

I'm Danny Shapiro, and this is family secrets, the secrets
that are kept from us, the secrets we keep from others,
and this secrets we keep from ourselves. I had a
stepfather who was a an alcoholic, very very scared of him,
and um, he was very abusive in many ways to

me and my siblings, have a half brother and half sister,
and my brother ended up in a maximum security prison.
You know, we all do with trauma differently, and he
could never get past the cycle of abuse and poor
choices which led him down this dark life of crime.
And my sister, the last time I saw her, she

was at the State Mental Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina,
trying to convince me that she was walking there vertusipatient
and lost her children very young age. Hasn't seen them,
probably in twenty five plus years. And uh, she was
a good soul, but just could not process everything that
had happened to her. And you know, my mother was

married prior to my stepfather, and I always thought he
was my biological father, along with my half brother and
half sister. I thought the three of us were all
full siblings. And the trauma that we went through living
with him, I don't I was young, but so I
don't remember a lot of it. But I do remember
one story in particular. My sister was telling me that, um,

you know, he would throw them in the closet and
threw firecrackers at I'm gonna hold the door. I mean
he'd have ten locks on the door, like all the
way down the doorway, and he'd locked on one, two
or three, you know, for safety. Just those memories that
are just burned into your mind that you can you
can never forget. So I would say my childhood was very,
very difficult, and you know the hardest part was sorting through,

Like I really adored my mother. I loved my mother.
I still love my mother. There's a lot of good
about my mother, just telling what I went through and
what I had to overcome to get to a good
place to hopefully help others. But you know, just watching
her go in and out of rehabs for alcohol abuse
and prescription drug abuse, and being called to the principle's

office when you're in grammar school and finding out that
your mom's just been arrested and she tried to put
her head in and told it to kill herself at
the police station, and having people tell you that, and
just you know, feeling alone and like you have no one,
and and knowing that everyone around you has basically thrown

the towel in on you. They just they're given up.
They know you're going to be a stat just like
my brother and sister. They know that your chances of
getting out of this life are slender none. And my
determination as a young child to not be like everyone
around me was great. Venus makes the conscious decision during

her adolescence to surround herself with good people. She studies
the seemingly happy, healthy families around her and patterns her
life after them. In the absence of role models within
her family, she seeks her own. She and her friends
don't drink or do drugs the way her mother and
siblings do. She's creating a map for her future, or

so she hopes. High school Sweetheart, his family was just
so good. I just remember looking at them and going
to their house and being so scared that they were
going to find out what I came from. But watching
them and how they genuinely loved each other and they
respected each other, and they all went to church together,
and then they actually practiced what they preached, and it

just was my saving grace because I had to figure
out a way to be like him. But I didn't
know how to do that. But again, I knew what
I didn't want to do, which is to be like
my brother or my sister, or my or my mother.
I wasn't like a straight A student by any means.
I was probably a average say student. I never had
someone to look at my grade, to my report carder

to see how I was doing. I never had someone
to care. Changed high schools I think six or seven
times within three years, and I know I had to
get out of my home life, um if I wanted
to do better. And so I went to summer school
to take an English class because I figured out I
had enough credits that I could skip my senior year
in high school and go straight to college. So that's

what I did. You know, I've pretty much been on
my own, I guess probably since I was fourteen, I
say I was on the verge of homelessness because I
was just living from you know, with friends and my
sister and my mom and in between beinges. It was
just it was just a tough life. But all at
the same time, I was joyful. I was happy, I
was grateful. I never looked at my life and thought

what was me. I never looked at you know, many
of my friends, a few of them were privileged. I
never looked at them and wanted what they had. I
just knew that I wanted something differently than I had.
Venus is incentivized to emerge for her traumatic upbringing. Her
hard work in school pays off, and she goes to college,

the first two years at a private Baptist college, then
she transfers to the University of South Carolina her junior year.
There she meets Tripp, who was five years older and
getting ready to graduate. They meet on a blind date,
and about a year and a half later, they get
married to No. Trip was to love Trip. He was dynamic,

he was fun, he was smart, he was good looking.
You know, he was president of his fraternity. They called
him the Killer. That was his nickname. All of us
her trinity brothers just really reveled around him. You walk
in the room, he's the shining star. You know, he
lit the room up. He gravitated to him. He was

a great dancer, he was funny um, and he was
so good to me. He made me feel like I
was the only person in the world when we were together.
He made everyone feel like that. He had a gift
with children. You know, we would be around his family
and his nieces and his nephews and he's pulling him
on a tractor behind with you know, fifteen kids and

a buggy behind it. He was just dynamic, and he
had really great qualities that made people naturally gravitate towards him.
This natural gravitation toward Trip happens just about everywhere with
his family, his friends, and at school where he's on
the football team. He's universally liked and likable. But on

the night before Trip and Venus get married, an unsettling
feeling sinks in. In addition to his effervescence, Trip has
a dark side. He rages at Venus in front of
the family, and she has a thought, a thought so
many have had on the eve of their weddings. You know,
you've got the dress and everything's been paid for in

the band is coming, and you had the thought that
you shouldn't marry him. Yeah, I knew that I should
not marry him, and that was not normal behavior, but
I just was so deep into it, and I thought,
you know what, he's got stress on him, and I'm
overreacting and like everybody's coming, and you know, I just

tucked it underneath my stomach and I just said I'm
gonna do this and pretendingly nothing happened. You would have
looked at us and thought we were the happiest couple
in the world. If Venus's childhood has prepared her for anything,
it's to pretend everything is okay. So that's what she

does when she has misgivings about the marriage, and over
the next several years, the pretending becomes reality. Venus and
Trip don't just look happy, they really are. Venus has
always longed for unconditional love, a growing family. She has
four kids within the first five years of her marriage,
and a kind of familial stability, and now she has it.

She's convinced that she's not repeating the history of her
fraud childhood. She has a strong family unit, a strong
faith and which he believes to be a strong, trusting partnership.
Trip is a great father. He's super active in the
church and in the kids schools and sports. He and
Venus have lunch together every day. But something else is

going on with Trip too. There's that dark side. Trip
struggles with mental illness, and soon he becomes abusive. I
think he was diagnosed with a polar disorder and maybe
a few other things, and he was on medication, and
he would have Tim's when he was medicated properly, that
he would do really well, and it was like he

was straight from heaven. And then he'd stopped taking his
medicine or his medicine would need to be tweaked, and
he would get really abusive and go under rages where
he would threatened to kill himself. You know, he would.
One time he said he tried to hang himself in
the little cabin next door to ours, and he pushed
me into a bathtub. I don't think he meant to

hurt me hurt me, but um, you know, I just remember,
like I thought I broke my back. I thought he'd
really done some permanent like I couldn't walk, you know,
I was like hunched over, and you know, he goes
out in the yard and gets a gun and she said,
I think he's killed himself. You know, I find him
out in the yard. But he was so remorseful after,

like just crying and begging and just please to help him,
and just how much he loved me, and that I
was the only person in the world he had. His
dad is remarried and he has a wonderful stepmother, but
his biological mother died in her late forties with clerosis
of the liver, and she battled alcoholism and I think
some mental issues and drugs, and you know, he would

just say he had no one. You know, I was
the only person he had, and and I wanted to
keep my family together at all costs. You know, I
wasn't I didn't intend on staying in an abusive marriage.
I just thought that I could fix him, and you
you can't fix someone else. And I know that now
i'm which is part of the reason I share the story.

You you can only fix yourself. You know, we had
many good years and even when the times were really
really bad, you know, whenever the abuse would get really
really bad, he would always be remorseful and beg for
forgiveness and tell me how much you loved me, and
how much he wanted to keep our family together, and

how he was going to be better, and he just
he was mentally sick, and he was you know, if
I would stand by him, that we had the best
family ever, and I believed him. I believed him, and
I did that. As bad as Trip was, it was
better than when I came from My mother told me
when I married Trip that I would be divorced within
a year, and I was hell bent on proving her wrong.

We'll be right back. In addition to the vile mood swings,
there are other red flags. There's suddenly a lot of debt,
Trip is overspending, and his financial decisions grand gestures included
are draining the family income. Venus decides to get her

real estate license so she can contribute financially. She begins
selling houses, and her first commission check is around five
thousand dollars. She's positioned to make about twenty dollars a year,
so just enough to help bolster the family's finances, but
not enough to support their large family. When Venus goes
to real estate school, she's pregnant with their sixth child,

I just wanted to be a mom. Prior to my
first child, I wanted to be in an attorney and
be in the corporate world. But once I had my
first child, and that's a whole another story, we trip
could not have children. He had um an undistended testicle
that was a tumor, and so as a result, when
we got married, I still at the hope, of course
we could have children naturally, but we could not, and

so we had a donor for the six alter in
the same dinner. So my first child, it took me
eight inseminations to to get pregnant, and the second one
it took me. For the third one it took me too,
and then um fourth, one, fifth, one, and six when
I got pregnant on the first insemination. And so when
I had my children, I had a whole different value

system that I had grown up thinking I wanted to
be this corporate person who was just knocking out of
the business world. I wanted to be a mom. Like
I realized how precious this life was. In that like,
I just wanted to help these children have everything that
I never had, which is a loving, stable family and
a mom that was dependable, and that you know, had

their back and that they could respect and look up to.
And when I got my license, it wasn't long after that,
but my life can crumbling down. But I just remember
telling the broker when I interviewed at may Bam, which
is the company I'm slant, I said, listen, don't pressure
me to make a lot of money. I'm here to
make the minimum this company requires for me to keep
my license here, which was twenty dollars a year. That's

all I'm gonna make. And I didn't know the storm.
I was about the weather. I never in a million
years dreamed that I would need to take over my
husband's role as the financial breadwinner in the house. But
soon she will be solely responsible financially and otherwise for

herself and her six children. One night, shortly after she
has sold a few properties, she's at home nursing her youngest.
Trip is away, trip is often away, and she received
the phone call from a woman at a hotel. So
the phone rings, and I'll never forget this girl was

on the line and she Sabrina's, my name is Jamie,
and I'm calling to tell you what an awful man
you're married to. And she went on to tell me
other stuff, and I was like, I didn't believe her.
I was in shock. And she said enough things where
I'm like, okay, I need to meet her. And so
I woke my son up and I said, you know, John,

can you watch her siblings? Listen up for your other ones?
And I gotta go meet with this lady. So I
got up and I'll never forget. I was driving on
Washington Road, which is where the hotel was at, and
I was thinking that she was lying. You know, I
was making every excuse for my husband like I always
did with everything, because there had been no signs of

him being unfaithful. And um, I get to the hotel,
I'll turn in there. I knock on the door and
I'll never forget. She comes to the door and she's
kind of fidgeting, and she's younger than me, and you know,
I'm pretty small and and she was, I mean, she
was very small and just looked fragile. And so she

opens the door and I come in and sit on
the bed and she's using the very descriptive language how
awful trip is and everything that he's done, and you know,
telling me he was a big man on campus all
these women, you know, pretty much taken everything we had
and the credit card. She said, these women want to
go to Walmart with it, and just Trip was a

big man, and they just cleaned us out and like
all the kids to count. Everything we had was gone,
and we didn't have a lot of money, but what
we had was gone. So then she starts showing me
photos on her phone. At that point I knew she
was not lying, because she's telling me things that Trip
was actually doing to me when he would get in
his rages, that he was doing to her. And I

think maybe she fell in love with him, because she
said towards the end she wasn't even charging him per sect.
But she showed me his phone and you know pictures
Trip and compromise positions and naked without clothes. You know,
one particular photo was driving on the road like with
his pants down with an erection and just like smiling

for the picture. I'm like what, And so then I
knew she was honest. And and I tell this, people
are amazed. But I just looked in her eyes and
I just felt this connection to her. You know, I
didn't hate her. I was just trying to get out
of my tragedy, and she had not figured out how

to get out of her tragedy, and I guess I
hadn't either, but I was trying. I just connected with her,
and um, she wanted to me to give her money
for a bus to get thinking back to it ly,
and I think and because the trip was supposedly starting
to kill her, which I believe. And so I wrote
her a check for like a hundred dollars and I

told her, Sai, Jamie, the money is not in the
bank right now, I said, so give me a few days.
I've got a close in this week, and once it's
in the bank, then you can cash it. I said,
but if you try to cash it now, they're going
to reject it. They're gonna balance it. And she called
me like every day for the next week until I
had the money in there, and then I told her, yes,
she can cash it. So then of course she cashed it.

And I've never heard from her again, but I'll look
back now, and I think how I felt to her.
I just felt compassion, and I felt really sorry for
and and I don't understand really fully myself, because you
just basically, you know what she told me, just stript
my entire life for me, I guess in handsight, she
did me a favor. She was a messenger. Yeah, so

then my journey changed. And I remember leaving and driving
back on Washington Road again to get that come to
my children, and I just thinking, Okay, you know, I
keep saying that I'm a Christian. What does a Christian mean?
You know, just a Christian? Just stand by here? I
am making excuses again because the Christians still stand by
her husband during the good times, or do they like

stand by them during the really hard times? And I said,
you know what, I'm gonna stand by him. I said,
because this is a mental disease like sexdiction. What he's
done is terrible. It's violating. You know, you take it
personal when there's intimacy involved with some But I knew
that deep dealing his soul was good and that he

had made some terrible choices. And I was going to
be a Christian and I was going to help him
get through this. And I was gonna show I told
our kids, I'm gonna show our community, our friends for
forgiveness really means. I was determined to have a stronger
family and to learn from it, and how I could

be a better wife to him too, you know, because again,
nobody's perfect. So my role leaving there was not to
crucify him or to leave him or divorce him. It
was to help him and to live my faith out
and to figure out how to keep my family together
still and his parents, he has a great family and

his parents, his step mom and his father sent him
to Hattiesburg, Mississippi. There's a sex rehab clinic there. He
was so remorseful, like, I'm gonna come out of here,
I'm gonna be the best father, I'm gonna be the
best husband, Like this is gonna make us stronger. I
love you, you know, my childhood with my mother being
an addict, and you know, I'm just messed up, and

they're gonna help me get better. And if you stick
by me, then then we're gonna have the best family ever.
That's all I ever wanted, was the best family ever.
So he immediately went there, and they actually put us
in a hotel somewhere because we were, you know, scared
for her safety that he might, uh, you know, our
life might be in danger, and said they put us

in a hotel until they could get him situated where
he needed to be in Mississippi, and of course, you know,
once he got there, and part of the recovery process
for any kind of addict is, you know, coming clean.
And he came clean about cheating on me for years
with prostitutes and lying about the truly, basically his whole
life was aligned and you know, still in money from

his parents company. And I didn't realize, like he was
so convincing, I did not realize that he never played
football for the University of South Carolina until he was
at the sexual rehab clinic. We've been married nearly twenty years,
and I was on a plane with his stepmother and

I didn't understand why they had no photos of him
playing football, And so I said to her, I said,
I've looked through all the photo albums. I said, I
see the pictures of Tripp and a cheerleader. I said,
I don't see any football pictures of him, and and
she looked at me like I was crazy. And she's
like me because I don't know what you're talking about.
I said, you know when Tripp played football at Carolina

And she said, um, he never played football at Carolina,
And I'm like, yeah, he did. I mean he told
us stories about you know, the coach saying, if you
guys played with half the heart that Trip Moore has
played with it, we we'd win the national championship. And
he'd take my children in the locker room and show
him everything and tell him stories about every place and

the you know things that happened. And She's like, Venus,
Trip never aid football ever in college. He was a cheerleader,
you know. So when we we got to Hattiesburg, Mississippi,
we sat down. A part of recovering from six addiction
is kind of coming clean with everything that you've done.
And and so I just asked him, I said, like,

if you've been lying to me for twenty years about
playing football and and he said yeah. So that's when
I'm like, Okay, something is like really really wrong. Why
does somebody make up something like that? And while he
was there, some other things came out that he had done,
and and that's when it became a deal breaker for me.

And the things he had done compromised my children. I
didn't really believe that either at first, but I was
disturbed enough, and I was a good mother, I thought,
and I would never let him come back in the
home or around the children without knowing one way or
the other. The possibility that Tripp had been sexually abusive

to any of their children had simply never occurred to Venus,
the handsome, charismatic All American football coach and churchgoer who
people flocked to like he was the pied Piper. It
couldn't be, or could it? There was only one way
to find out. He agreed to take a lot of

tector tests and they gave him too at the hospital.
He failed the first one. In the second one that
the polygraphic Samar said, you know, he was so nervous.
He's like, can't can't even really get a result. He says,
you need to there's something out, a specific issue, a
lot of tector tests and and you need there's a
gun at Leona, and he gave me the name of

the person and you need to call him and set
an appointment up and you know he'll be able to
give you assurance one way or the other. And so
of course I immediately called him, and you know, the
guy's explaining the process and he's like, it's pretty full proof.
When when he lives here, you'll know if he did
these things. And Trip was very good at storytelling, as

you see what the stories I've told you. And I
think he really thought he could beat it. In Claire
his name in that VI it us reconcile, and he
went there took the test and I'll never forget that
guy called him and he's like, you know what he said,
I can tell you he's done these things. And he
said something like you'd be an unfit mother at best

if you did nothing about this. And so that was
it for me, Like there was no can I help
him anymore? Cannot? That was it. We'll be back in
a moment with more family secrets. When Venus thought it

was sex addiction and mental illness that was causing trips behavior,
she was gutted, but she had been seriously considering supporting
him through it for the sake of their family. But
when she learned the trip has violated one of her
daughters and is in fact a direct threat to their family,
she absolutely will not stand by him, no way, no how.

All she's ever wanted to do was create a sense
of stability and safety for her children, to give them
childhoods better than hers had been. This this is devastating,
but she springs into action a foul for divorce immediately,
because I would never bring someone like that around my children.

And you know, callna pediatrician who had been my pediatrician
for twenty years, fifteen years traveling was at the time,
and he says, you know, Venus, He said, You've got
to take your daughter to the hospital to be examined.
He says, I don't do that type of exam here,
he said, but I do have to tell you I
would lose my medical license about a report this. So

I've got to call the Department of Social Services and
make them aware of what's been said. And you know,
this is this is a serious business. And of course
I knew that, and I was devastated, and I agree
with him. So then at that point the Department of
Social Services came in and interviewed everybody and felt probable
calls and went to the district attorney, and Trip agreed

to come down to testify. And again, Tripp was so
nice and vaivable and likable. I think he just thought
he could talk his way out of it, like he'd
done his whole life. And it was really ultimately his
own testimony that that put him away. But um, they
arrested him right after the grand jury issued an indictment

and they didn't even give him parole because of the
risk they felt like he posed to me and the children.
He was sentenced to forty five years in prison and
just been there like eleven years now, ten or eleven years,
and he um, I think he has to start twenty
one years before he can get pro all Venus also
tells her Chidren that while she doesn't know what the

future will hold, she is their mother and she's going
to do everything in her power to be a good
mother to them. They're going to weather this storm together
and not be defined as a family by the terrible
things their father did. I was struck by your fact
that you didn't have a lot of support from the
community that you've been a part of for all these years. Well,

it was interesting. It is interesting looking back now, because
people that were barely my friends stepped up to the
plate and became really, really just amazing friends. I mean,
one lady who barely knew knocked on my door and
basically told me she could organize people to sew cartons,

you know, And I'm like, listen, I appreciate that, but
I'm fine without curtains. If I sell my house and
I'm living in a tent, then I'll take it, you know,
But let let me do what I gotta do first.
And I'm not above getting help, but let me try
to take of business at home before I reach out
and get other people to do these things. But it
was amazing. It's a beautiful gesture. And then I had

another friend who I was friends with, but we weren't
by any means really close friends or best friends. And
she started working for me and just walked the fire
with me and became my very best friend and she's
still my very best friend, and we will die being
best friends. And the first year I was so broke
I could not even pay her, like for a whole year,

And I'll never forget her telling me. She's like, nas,
don't worry about me. I'm okay, Um, you know, her
husband worked and support of the family, and she said,
you do what you need to do to take care
of you kids. You can catch me up. And she
would tell me like, I'm putting up billboards on Washington
Road and not knowing how I'm going to even pay
for him. But I knew I had to do something
dramatic and drastic to be successful and make a statement.

And she's like, you put the billboards up, and I'll
feed your family if I need to feed your family.
I believe in you. You get out there and you
do it. And I did, and I was s scessful
in on her second year. I paid her back for
the first year in full, and then I started paying
her for the second year. And she was faithful to me.

But not everyone remained faithful to Venus. Some turned on
her and blamed her for her husband's actions as well
as her own. She had been part of a prayer
group with five other couples. They had met every Wednesday
for ten years. They were, up until trips imprisonment, the
best friendships Venus had ever had. I had never really

had friends like that, you know, because I had moved
so much, I've been so much just function. I had
been in hiding my whole life. I didn't want anybody
to who I really was. I wanted to pretend like
I was normal and my cup as everybody else. And
so when I met these ladies, I mean they all
came from well, two of them came from extremely good families.
One of them had a really great mom and a
divorce situation. But she she was actually my very best friend.

And then there's another couple in the prayer group who
I was friends with, but I wasn't real close with them,
but um, and that couple actually was the nicest to me.
But the the other three couples in there, I'll never forget.
My husband's put in prison, and like they don't speak
to me from that point out. And the friend who
was my best friends, she says to me, I asked

her to go out to dinner with me and said, listen,
like we had to talk, like did I did I
do something wrong? I mean, like tell me. I mean,
you're like my best friend in the world. My husband's
just going to prison for six kids. Like what did
that do? And she said to me, she said, you know,
I am very Catholic and I'm very black and white,

and what you did was wrong conceiving your children with
a dinner and you didn't just do it one time.
You had six children by the dinner and you lied
to us and you didn't tell us this. And I'm
black and white and I just can't. I can't be
friends with you. The children were also paying for trips

behavior ostracized and judged. Other kids weren't allowed to come
to their home. They weren't invited to birthday parties in
a family that had been injured enough, the injuries piled
on my son Neil. He was only one when his
father went away, and he came home last week and said, Mom, like,

he doesn't even really know trips in prison or for
what anything about it, because he's never really been a
father figure. But he said, Mom, like this girl in
my class, like if I come into class irritated, or
if I say something to or she'll look at to
me and she'll say, are you in a bad mood? Charles?
Because your dad's in jail. I'm just like, what's wrong

with these kids? Like what is wrong with these kids?
And you know, like one of my kids came home devastated, like, Mom,
they want to die God mother you There're all these
people sing terrible things and they'll laugh and say where's
your adt yet today? And I'm like like, who are
these Christian people? Like what the hell? And you know,
I'm a little fighter, so I'm just like putting my

box in gloves on, just you know, if I weren't
grounded in myself and and my faith. I would have
left my faith because I'm sitting here thinking how to
I forgive my husband for having a sex addiction and
committed to trying to find a way. And they're never
speaking to me because my husband is going to prison
for cald molestation and they're thinking I knew something, you know,

I'm like, what is wrong with you? People? But I'll
forgive them. And one of the people I never mentioned names,
and I would never do that, but she sent me
this really ugly text message, and you know, I just said,
I can't believe what you're trying to do for fame
and for money and and I've told you to leave
my family out of your drama. And I was like,
Number one, I'm a self made millionaire. Nothing am I

am doing except with the intent of helping other women
or in extremely dark places, not go through what I've
gone through, to see their value, to see the word
In Number two, it's really hard to look at yourself
and this story. I know it is, but as Christians,
we all mess up. We're all sinners, so you know

you need to just own it and know that I
don't pass judgment. I forgive you, but this is my
story and it's a big part of it, because you know,
that's why people go into depression and anxiety, because you know,
something shameful like this happens and everyone turns it back
on you. And I've had women tell me until they
heard my story, they were on the verge of suicide,

and after hearing my story that I've given them hope
and they can get through what they're going through, and
that that their commitment is to be in the best
moment they can be. And to me, like this is
embarrassing the stuff I share. I'm getting a lot of support,
but I'm also getting a tremendous amount of criticism within

the community for for putting my stuff out there. But
you can get goodness out of bad and light out
of darkness if you do you let it, if you're
not ashamed of what's happened. Because we all mess up.
And I say, my pain, it is terrible, My story
is heartwrenching, but my pain really is no different than
the next person's pain. It's just different and it's all relative,

which brings me to talking to you. There's another embedded
secret at the core of this family dynamic. Are you
ready for this one? The children don't know that Trip
is not their biological father. Yes, you heard that right.
And since his arrest, Trip has been telling people the

secret that he and Venus planned to take to their
graves together. So I got um. I got a phone
call from someone who said, oh my god, Venus, I
just heard this terrible rumor, and I wanted to call
you because you know, I don't think it's true, but
I think you should know about it, just because I

think you should know about I'm like, what is it. Well?
Trip has gone around and he's telling some people that
these aren't even his biological kids, and I'm like what,
And I didn't know what what to say. You know,
at that point it's like, okay, no one in the
world do except for me and Trip. You know, at
that point, what do you what do you say? And
so I thought about it, and I said, you know,

I've got to go to all my kids because if
I don't, if this person has heard it, my kids
are going to hear it. And I don't want them
hearing this from someone else. This is not a conversation
that a stranger or you know, a friend or someone
making fun of them needs to have, especially with all
the scandal we're already going through, and so I just
set them down individually and I just said, you know,

you were conceived out of love, you were wanted, you
were wanted more than you could possibly know, and I'm
your mother and this is your father. But biologically, I said,
it's kind of like you're half adopted because your father
could not have children. And that's it. After trying for
a few years, we wanted a family, and we decided

getting a donor was the way we wanted to have
our family. And so here you guys are, and you're
all biologically related because we bought all of the sperm.
It was at a corporation called zy Text. One of
my children says, they were actually relieved, and they were
happy in a sense because they said, we don't have

his genes, meaning that they don't have whatever gene it
is that that's made him a child. Lester doesn't mean
that they don't want their grandfather and grandmother's geens, because
they adore my husband's family and my husband's family is
very good to them and they're still family. But they
were relieved that they didn't have to wonder. You know,

if you have a parent that has schizophrenia, you have
a greater chance of having that, or if you're BiPOL
and you have a parent, you have a greater chance
of having that, you know. So they weren't upset like
I thought they were going to be upset. They had
a sense of relief because of what he was convicted of,
that they didn't have to think, Okay, could this be
a possibility? You know, I know with my own mother

who struggles with whatever mental illness she has. You know,
when I was in my twenties, I used to wonder,
Oh my god, am I gonna end up like my mother?
I struggled with that. It was trumpantizing what their father did,
not only what he was convicted of, but the abuse.
I mean, he would towards the end there like act
like he was gonna kill himself in front of our children.
And so they were happy to know that they had

a better shot of not struggling with the same things
that he struggled with. In the midst of all these struggles,
Venus triumphantly pulls ahead in her career. She's really really good,
I mean, like stupendously good at selling houses. In ten years,

she does nearly five million dollars in real estate sales,
staggering accomplishment of tenacity and hard work. Well, I'll tell
you this. I'll tell you um, I never intended nor
wanted to be as financially as successful as I've turned

out to be. I have achieved a lot of financial success,
and I believe I'm no one special. That I was
put into a situation and I have six children depending
on me, and I knew if I failed that they
would fail, and that if I put my cross down,
then they would carry the cross the rest of their lives.

I was determined. I was determined not to let that happen,
and I didn't know what that meant. But as far
as my real estate success goes, I believe you can
be successful at anything, anything, and you can achieve whatever
you set your mind to. You just have to have
the work ethic and determination. You've gotta have forgiveness. But

I never set out, you know, to make seven figures
every year. That was never my intent. My intent was.
You know, money is nice. I like doing well, but
money is a means to an end. And I tell
my kids all the time, as long as you can
financially support yourself and meet your basic needs and have

a little extra for security, like your happiness. I don't
believe goes up with what your bank account reflects. So
again I tell people I'm nobody's special and they can
do what I've done and probably more because they don't
have seven children. I have seven children now because it's
a lot. You know, I get up at five o'clock

every morning, I go. You know, I put the oxygen
mask on myself. I learned early on in my journey
that you know, I couldn't take care of my six
kids if I didn't make myself a priority. Well, there's
no time when you're working seventy hours a week unless
you get a little uncomfortable. That fund five miles every
day because those in orphands going. So I could be
present and deal with the stress that I was under,

because you need some kind of outlet. So I researched
to hold the outlets for anxiety and depression and stress
and and exercise was it. So, you know, making myself
a priority and letting my kids know that what I
didn't want to do is become this real estate mongol
successful person. And then my kids I think that the

money was more important to them, and that I lost
sight of them in order to achieve financial recognition and games.
And so you know, I committed every every day when
my husband went to prison that first year, I got
up at five o'clock, I ran, I came home, I
got all six children up. I took them to church
every morning, but first school five days a week, and

then we went on Sundays. And then I committed, no
matter how long my work week was, to sitting down
having family dinner with my children every night, because letting
them know that, Okay, mom's got this crazy work schedule,
but she's here with us, and we're gonna go around
and we're gonna say a good thing and are not
so good thing, and she hears us, she loves us.

We matter. That's the life changing things. That's what you
build your family on. That's why I have this unbreakable
bond with my kids because they saw, no matter how
tough things were, that I was committed first to being
a mom to them, second taking care of them emotionally
and financially. And they also saw my commitment to taking

care of myself because I tell my kids, you've got
to take care of yourself, because you teach other people
how to treat you. So you've got to start with yourself.
And it's taking me a lifetime to learn these things.
But my goal is by sharing my story that I
can help other women learn in a lot less time
than I did their value and what they bring to
the table and to get out of a bad relationship

if it's not working. The rest is kind of history.
I've remarried. I'm actually I've had a seventh child at
forty four. It's my first unplayed pregnant saying we were
married a few years and um, we were married eight years.
We're actually going through divorced. And even with that, I'm like,
you know what has been married me and he had
never been married. He was private, fifty years old, no children,

and I'm like that tells you he's a saint just
to try to marry me with all this craziness. But um,
I'll look at the marriage with him and I'm like,
you know, even though it didn't work, it still was
a huge success because we've got this beautiful child together
and we're going to raise together. You just have to
look at what you have and focus on what you
have versus what you don't have. And then I think

that you can get through the ups and downs of
life and overcome. Veniss kids have gone through these ups
and downs in life, and they've overcome so much, particularly
her eldest son, John, who was sixteen when his father
went to prison. All of my kids are amazing, but John,

and you know, he had to step up and be
the dad in the family when his father went away,
and he is very, very protective over his siblings. And
you know, to this day, he's like, Mom, just if
you helped Charles study for his reading test? Have you
helped Charles is the youngest of the six children, and
he's just this amazing soul. And he's just good. I

asked him one time, I said, John, I said, like,
why are you so good? I mean, because I'm like,
there's no way I'm responsible for him being so good.
I mean, I just I mean, I try to be
a good mom, but like, he's just he's just good. Well,
for example, like when he was a senior in high school,
um he took his team, he was one of the captains,

and took them to the state championship. They won for
the first time and the last time in the history
of their school. And later that year his team they
have awards at the end of the year. They created
a special award for John that they give away now
every year and it's like just it's called the Heart
and Soul because they say he embodies the heart and
soul of what you want to see in a young athlete.

And so fast forward, he goes to dental school. He
had to get up and give a speech to everyone,
and all the parents were there, um, all the students,
the the whole faculty at the dental school. It's kind
of a big deal. And he goes through and he
thanks everyone, the faculty, and he recognizes a lot of
the students and just you know, highlights what's so good

about them and what they're achieving together. And and then
he ends and he says, but I can't end this
speech without I recognize in my mom. And so of
course I had no idea that he was to do this.
It's like, Mom, could you stand up? And I'm like what,
And so I'm there. It just makes me crack, sir.
Everyone in the whole place is like looking because a

lot of people knew what our family had gone through.
And he just basically said, he said, Mom, when the
whole world through the towel in on us. You stepped
up and you taught me to never quit. You taught
me to never settle, and you taught me to persevere

no matter what. And he said, for that, I will
be Dr John Morris because of the example that you
set for me and my siblings. You're the number one
mom in the world, and everybody else is competing for
a second place, and like the whole place was just
That's when you know, like everything I've been through, everything

is worth it, because when you have your children looked
at you and they have this love and respect for you,
even though again I am not the perfect mother. I
want to say that a hundred times, and I failed
and constantly, but when they look at you and they
generally love and respect you, I mean there is nothing,
no amount of success, no amount of money, nothing in

the world that can ever give you happiness and peace
in a sense of fulfillment as when you have your
children one by one look at you and recognize that
you know you've basically sacrificed yourself to try to be
a good parent to them. And again, my advice to

other people and what helped me when you go through
tough times, don't look at what you can do big
for your family. It's really the little things to having
dinner with them, you know, taking them to mass or
whatever your faith is, to go into their gains. Just
you know, I'll be at their games working. They won't
see me. I'll secretly have my phone hidden while they're

on the field, but they see me there, you know,
they see me there. And I'm producing sixty seventy million
dollars a year in real estate. That's hard. But they
see what you do and they love you for it,
and you just, I don't know, that's happiness is you know,
heard Oprah one time refer to m Martin Luther Keane
got everybody can be famous, but everybody can be happiness

because something like happiness is found in service. In service,
it can be in many ways your family too, you know,
to charity to other people that need you. You can serve.
And that's God has put me on the serve to
serve my children, to be a mom. And I just
happened to be successful at the same time because I
have to be successful to take care of them. Family

Secrets is a production of I Heart Radio. Molly z
A Core is the story editor and Dylan Fagan is
the executive producer. If you have a family secret you'd
like to share, please leave us a voicemail and your
story could appear on an upcoming episode. Our number is
one eight eight Secret zero. That's the number zero. You

can also find me on Instagram at Danny writer. And
if you'd like to know more about the story that
inspired this podcast, check out my memoir Inheritance. For more podcasts.

For my heart Radio, visit the I Heart Radio app,
Apple podcast, or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

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