If you’ve ever found yourself scrolling through the Instagram account for Humans of New York, then you’ve likely shed a few tears and uttered a few gasps at some of the truly unforgettable tales that are highlighted on that account. Thursday’s story was no exception—the tragic story of one mom’s lifetime of abuse and survival had hundreds of thousands of people waiting with bated breath for each new segment to be uploaded every hour.
Venus Morris Griffin, a mother of seven and dynamite realtor from Georgia, shared a heartbreakingly personal and devastating story more gripping than some of the world’s bestsellers. If you haven’t read it yet, well, buckle up. And grab a tissue.
In the 13-part series, Venus reveals the disturbing details of her marriage and her husband’s abusive nature—including an entire second life he was leading unbeknownst to her.
But Tripp wasn’t just a monster; he was charming, loving, and knew exactly how to manipulate and victimize his wife and children.
“That’s why it’s still so hard,” she explains. “You’d think I hate him, but I can’t. Because I loved him.”
Venus describes falling in love with Tripp as the ultimate escape from her unhappy upbringing. He was “widely adored” by friends and family, and his upbeat personality charmed everyone he came into contact with. He was the PTA president, football coach, and bible study teacher in their community. Everyone was enamored of him—but he had a dark side. A very, very dark side.
But behind closed doors throughout their relationship, there were many red flags alerting Venus to who he really was. Like the day before their wedding, when Venus worried about the cost of all of the extravagant items Tripp insisted upon. He berated her, screamed at her, and called her names simply for worrying they couldn’t afford the wedding he wanted.
“I remember thinking: ‘I shouldn’t marry this man’. But everyone was going to be there the next day. It was too late to back out.”
Venus admitted that her rough and unsettled childhood had taught her how to pretend everything was okay. And so her years as Tripp’s wife waged on—he was one person to the outside world, and a monster to her and their kids. Since Tripp couldn’t conceive children naturally, they decided to use a sperm donor that looked like him to conceive their six children.
It had always been her dream to have a family and children of her own. Venus convinced herself that she was happy because she hadn’t ever really known what a functional, healthy relationship looked like. And she desperately and deeply loved her children—a love so strong, it shines through each part of her sad story.
“I thought if I just kept helping him—the good would win over the bad,” she explained. “It’s not like I did nothing. We were going to counselors, therapists. I thought I was being a good wife, and mother. I’d grown up without a father. At least my kids had a father. And they adored their father. Whenever there was a particularly bad fight, he would sit us all down in the living room. He’d say: ‘Daddy’s really sorry that he’s mean to Mommy, but I’m going to get help. We’re going to be the best family ever.’ It seemed like he genuinely wanted to change.”
As the years went on, Tripp dug the family deeper and deeper into debt—hundreds of thousands of dollars. Venus decided to get her real estate license just weeks after giving birth to their youngest child and begin making her own money to compensate for her husband’s debt.
“I said: ‘I’m thinking about getting my real estate license.’ He laughed at me. He said: ‘Yeah, right. Sure you will.’ But that’s exactly what I did,” she shares.
One night, Tripp pushed her in the bathtub so hard she feared she broke her back. He also threatened suicide, saying “Once everything comes out about what I’ve done, I’m going to kill myself.”
What he had done, Venus learned shortly after, is rack up tens of thousands of dollars of debt by abusing sex workers. And, most tragically of all, their young daughter confirmed that Tripp had been molesting her.
“On the night of his sentencing, I gathered my kids around the kitchen table,” she shares. “I told them: ‘Your father did some very bad things. But those things had nothing to do with us. I’m scared right now. But I’m your mother, and I’m not going to let this bring us down.’ That night I laid in bed and felt like I wanted to die. We were hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. And I had six kids to feed.”
Determined not to give up on herself or her children, Venus did everything she could to regain a sense of stability and make ends meet in her new career as a realtor. She says her oldest son, John, became the “man of the house.” She also says she told her children they didn’t actually share Tripp’s genes, and they were relieved and grateful. Slowly, her family began to rebuild.
“Since I began ten years ago, I’ve had nearly $500 million in sales. Four of the past five years, I’ve been the number one real estate agent in Augusta,” she says.”I finally paid off our house, and since then I’ve bought eight more houses. I’ve put all my kids through private school. I’ve paid for all their sports, all their activities.”
Venus says these days, she’s since remarried (and had her seventh child), and spends her time supporting her children in their endeavors. She admits she will always feel an immense sense of guilt for not leaving Tripp sooner—a heartbreaking sentiment shared by many victims of domestic violence.
“But sometimes it feels like it doesn’t matter what I do anymore. It doesn’t matter what I buy. I failed my children. Because I should have left. I failed at the most important thing.”
Her story went wildly viral, with many people sharing their own stories of abuse and their support for Venus and her children. The whole story has generated a huge following, with the initial post gaining over nearly 300,000 likes and over 5,000 comments.
When stories like this make headlines, so many people inevitably ask, “Why did she stay?”
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, abusers repeatedly go to extremes to prevent the victim from leaving. In fact, leaving an abuser is the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence. One study found in interviews with men who have killed their wives that either threats of separation by their partner or actual separations were most often the precipitating events that lead to the murder. Or, in this case, the abuser threatened self-harm while also physically and emotionally harming his wife and children.
Hopefully, this mama and her children have been able to piece themselves together and will enjoy a long, happy, healthy life while making new memories and loving each other. The world will never forget this family’s story, that’s for sure.
During her oldest son’s dental school graduation ceremony, he spoke to the crowd—and singled his mom out for a special shout-out.
“Then he pointed over to where I was sitting. He said: ‘Mom, can you please stand up?’ I had no idea what was going on, but I stood up. Everyone turned to look at me. And John said: ‘Mom, you’re the reason I’m here. You’ve taught me to push myself to limits I’ve never dreamed possible. When everyone threw in the towel on our family, you persisted. And you were everything we needed you to be. I don’t have a coffee mug to give you– but you’re the number one Mom in the world.”
Tripp Morris is currently serving a 45-year prison sentence.