VENUS & SERENA'S MOM ENDS SILENCE ON ABUSE

Published on: June 6, 2001

THE MOTHER of tennis phenoms Venus and Serena Williams is finally starting to break her silence about reports that her husband Richard beat her up -- and she's completely contradicted Richard's story.

On Feb. 7, 1999, Oracene Williams was treated for three broken ribs at Columbia Hospital in West Palm Beach, Fla. Hospital officials, who feared that she'd been the victim of domestic violence, called in police.

But Oracene denied being abused and said she injured herself by running into a door handle. She later admitted to police, "I know you know what happened, but I am fearful for my daughters' career."

Both Venus and Serena, who took their mom to the hospital, were "evasive" in their answers, according to the police report of the incident.

Then last December -- the day after Venus signed a $40 million endorsement contract -- Richard responded to a report that police suspected him of abusing his wife in the 1999 incident.

Richard denied he ever hit his wife, maintaining that her injuries were caused by a jet-ski accident while he was in Chicago.

Now Oracene is finally responding. When asked about her injuries from the incident, she emphatically told a reporter: "I don't jet-ski."

She refused to deny that she was physically abused by Richard, and would only say, "I don't want to discuss it."

This wasn't the first time a domestic disturbance involving Oracene and Richard was brought to light. In 1997, a frightened Oracene called 911 when Richard brandished a pellet gun while the couple were arguing.