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Hey, listeners. I'm here today to tell you about Lemonade Media's newest limited podcast series called Declined. This series takes you through the journey of two exceptional women from incarceration to freedom, ultimately leading to the creation of the Returning Artists Guild, an organization that uplifts the artwork of currently and formerly incarcerated artists across the country. Call declined is out now, wherever you get your podcasts.


Hi, I'm Elise Myers. I'm a content creator and comedian. You might know me from TikTok. Why am I in your ears right now? Well, that's a great question. I would love to tell you I have a new podcast called funny because it's true. On my show, I'll be interviewing comedians, pop culture icons, and also just people I find really funny. We'll be talking about the awkward moments that keep you awake at night because if you don't laugh, you cry, right?




Funny because it's true. Out now, wherever you get your podcasts.


Lemonade. Hi there, believe her, listeners. I'm Stephanie Littleswax, one of the show's executive producers, and I have some great news to share. On January 4, 2024, Nikki Aramondo was released from Bedford Hill's correctional facility. Now, if this is the first time you're hearing about Nikki, I strongly suggest pausing this episode and starting at the beginning of her story with episode one of believe her. However, if you've been following this series, you know that almost five years ago, Nikki was convicted for killing her partner, Chris, the father of her children, an act she described as self defense after enduring years of relentless emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. And you also know that her self defense claim was rejected. But thanks to New York State's domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, Nikki's initial sentence of 19 years to life was reduced to 7.5 years. The reduction included the time she had already served, and so now she's out. We are so excited to celebrate Nikki's return to freedom and to her family, including her two children, Ben and Faye. This moment marks a new chapter in her life and reminds us just how important it is to have understanding and empathy towards survivors of domestic violence.


Today, we are sharing two excerpts that were previously only available to our lemonada Premium subscribers. The first conversation is between the police and Nikki's friend Elizabeth Clifton, the day after Chris's death. The second excerpt is from activist, mother and survivor Monica Cosby. These two conversations speak to the range of the incredible reporting in this series. Elizabeth gets to the heart of Nikki's personal story, and Monica reminds us that Nikki was not the only person put behind bars for trying to save her own life. This is an issue impacting so many others. Okay, a few quick things before we play the tape. Nikki's supporters are raising money for her family. If you want to contribute, the link will be in the show notes, or you can go to westandwithniki Also, Nikki'sister Michelle recently published a book about Nikki's story called Dear Sister. We'll link that in the show notes, too. And if you want more reporting from our phenomenal host, Justine Vanderloon, her book is called we are not such things. The murder of a young american, a south african township, and the search for truth and reconciliation. We will link that in the show notes as well.


Okay, here's Elizabeth Clifton.


Hi. Darryl Hunkala, the detective. So we just want to get some background information because we know her. How long have you known?


Is she safe right now?


Yeah, she's safe. It appears at this point that she took matters into her own hands. And he's dead. Is he?


Did the kids see?


No, apparently not.




That's a good question. I mean, she says they didn't. That they were stirring in the bed. I don't know how this is going to play out because you know how domestic situations, as bad as this go, and there's a lot of, obviously, trauma that she's experienced and your mind's not right. But.


I know she would not do that unless she felt like she had no other way of getting out without. With her own. Not even her own life, like, her kids lives. She doesn't kill bugs. I mean, he, like, literally tortured her every day.


Right? For a long time. Five years.


I kept a close eye on the kids because obviously that was a big concern. I can't say anything. She's an amazing parent, truly. Her ability to mother them and care for them while all this was happening to her is, like, miraculous. And they're thriving, healthy kids.






In those circumstances, yeah. I mean, she did mention to us that he was actually good to the kids. I don't know.


Right. That was her thing. She always said, like, it's just me who's getting hurt. He's not hurting them, and I believe that. I've never seen any evidence of them being harmed. He targeted her specifically.


So do you ever break down and confide in her why he's doing what he's doing or he's just doing it or why she thinks it's happening? I mean, sometimes in these cases, I've experienced where it'll come out during a relationship that the abuser has been abused as they grew up, and they're just kind of.


That was never mentioned.


All right. So that. Okay.


That never came up.


Okay. No, it was just typical. He was a pos and was taking out whatever was going on in his head on her.


I don't know if DB is your area. What I've come to experience is that the victim just believes it's all their fault. She would just always say, everybody loves him and nobody will believe me. And the fact that he's so well known, especially through his work, like lots of families, and she just felt like she really had nowhere to go. So what would happen is that she would go out and be driving and just enter into a state of panic, like, literally. And she has a really extensive history of trauma. And she would, I think, go into.


Kind of like panic mode if he knows I'm really thinking about this I'm in trouble type of thing.


Yeah. To the point where she couldn't think clearly. I'd be trying to get her to my house and she'd be driving and driving and driving, and he'd, meanwhile, he'd be calling her and calling her and calling her. So this really plays all into it, like this deep sense of shame that she had because of the way he exploited her, basically. I don't know. She didn't want me to know a lot of details.




Just really any way you could think.


That he was doing it all?




There was the poster child for garbage. As far as domestic stuff goes, there's a lot that has to be resolved. And I wanted to express that to you, that we understand both sides, but she still can't take a gun and shoot somebody in the head, you know what I mean? She gave us most of the story. Some of it really doesn't make 100% of sense. I can't really tell you all the details about it at this point. And then she said she was confused and she asked for an attorney. So our questioning and our conversation stops and we look at both sides of the case. We're not just looking to end everything on her. We need to look at this as a big picture here. And every positive or negative helps out.




You know what I mean? Where I'm trying to go with that is we'll see how it plays out. You know what I mean?


We have to take a quick break. When we come back, we'll share our second excerpt from someone who had a very different experience than Nikki.


Meet Jeanette McCurdy. She's an author, writer, and a big feeler, so much so that she's making a podcast about all of her feelings. Jeanette's memoir, I'm glad my mom died, welcomed the world into the story of Jeanette and all of the intense life experiences that molded her into the person she is today. But how does she manage all of the messy, hard feelings she's feeling right now? In each episode of Hard Feelings, her new podcast with Lemonade media, she'll tell you all about it, jealousy, shame, social anxiety. She wants to laugh about it, cry about it, and work through it with you by her side. Why? These hard feelings are a big part of the human condition. They unite us all, but only once we're willing to face them. You can listen to hard feelings on Amazon music or wherever you get your podcasts.


Think about a moment in your life that changed you, where one day you were yourself and then the next day, poof, you weren't. I'm Stephanie Whittleswax, host of the show last day. And each week I sit down with a new guest to explore happy, sad stories of transformation. Some last days are hopeful. Some are tragic. But on the other side of every last day is a fresh start. Come laugh. Cry with us. Listen to last day wherever you get your podcasts. We're back. Next, we have a conversation between activist and mother Monica Cosby and our host, Justine Vanderloon. Monica is a survivor who served 20 years in Illinois prisons. She was featured in episode six to talk about how the system fails black women like her. Here is a continuation of that conversation.


I'm Monica Cosby. I'm a mom. I'm a grandma, and I'm a friend and colleague to a whole bunch of persons. But largely, this is the mom and the grandma, and those are my most important identities, right. And largely why I do the things that I do, right, the organizing that I do, some of the educational work that I do, right. I want for my children and my grandchildren to live a life where they don't have to worry about what's going to happen to them. I don't want them to ever have to worry, like, be afraid in the ways that I have been afraid. I've been harmed greatly as a child and a teenager, right? I moved into violent relationships from witness. I witnessed a lot of violence while I was growing up in my family and just in my immediate community.


How did that early violence and trauma lead you into prison?


For a long time, I accepted that that's just how it was. Right? It was just how it was. And so when I moved into violent relationships, I can clearly remember thinking that because I fought back, I wasn't in an abusive relationship. I think we expect people to be sorry to be alive, right? To be sorry for surviving. And I think we don't know how to understand that people can have sorrow and regret and remorse over all of what has happened, but still be okay with being alive. I think people are offended when we survive. It's like, how dare a bitch survive? Like, the only way you can prove you were a victim is if you actually die. And then we'll still say shit like, oh, they didn't even fight back. They just let themselves be killed. Like, we can't even help but blame a woman.


Yeah, that's exactly what I see. And what you've lived, obviously. And it's like, why don't you have remorse? It's kind of like remorse for not dying. When you were in prison, you were there for. Is it 20 years or 22 years?




When you went to prison, would you consider yourself a criminalized survivor?


Yes, I think almost everyone in prison is a criminalized survivor. Pretty much everybody in prison, whether you're in a designated women's joint or a designated men's joint, is pretty much a criminalized survivor or something. If you want to broaden criminalized survival, if you got locked up on just retail theft because you needed baby diapers or some shit, that's criminalized survival. You know what I'm saying? So on one side of it, we have state violence, and on the other side of it, we have intimate partner violence, domestic violence. And so it's the issue of power. Control works both ways for each part. Like, in a violent, intimate relationship, the partner is going to be very controlling who you get to talk to, when you get to talk, what you get to talk about, whether or not these kinds of things, right? In prison, somebody is absolutely in control of. When you get to use the phone and talk to your mom or your kids or whatever, right? When you can take a shower, when you can come and go, economic abuse, you working for free or pennies in prison, versus being out here with an abusive partner that controls your money.


I'm not saying they're the same thing, but I do feel like to a large extent, domestic violence and intimate partner violence is like kind of an internalized and externalized reflection or reiteration of state violence.


Can you talk to me a little bit about the difference, from your experience and perspective and expertise of how women of color and black women are treated in the system versus white women.


Oh, shoot. You can just straight up look at sentencing, right? So the same crime or offense, or whatever you want to call it, a black woman or other woman of color will get just straight up more time on the same charge. So, like in Illinois, we go by class. Like class 1234, class X, class M. So a class x is six to 30, right? So let's say you have a black woman and a white woman. They both got some kind of class x, right? They have the same exact class x felony that carries six to 30. A white woman might get the six and maybe get it dropped down to another class so that it's probational. And a black woman will get 810, maybe more, somewhere more between the six and the 30 instead of at the minimum, right? So it's things like that. And again, it's who gets to be perceived as a victim. So if the police roll up on a couple and they're fighting in the street, and a black woman done knocks the shit out her partner because he knocked the shit out of her, they're both going to jail. They both might get shot, but they're going to come and try to rescue and save the white girl.


You could die calling the police. We know that this has happened. You can go to jail calling the police, trying to save yourself. And a lot of that has to do, like, straight up racism, right? And who gets to be a victim and who don't? And who's the perfect victim and who ain't?


So what's the difference? So who ends up in prison and who's out here?


Race and class. It's race and class.


What are your large picture goals for the system? For, like, your kind of life's work. What do you want?


I want the system as it is now to fucking be gone. And for that to change, we have to change the way that we think about violence. Right? What is violent? Who is violent, how violence works, how it maintains itself, how it replicates itself.


And what about in terms of the violent, so called violent crimes?


I'm not even trying to hear that shit. Poverty is a fucking violent crime. The fuck out. Fucking structural and institutional racism and misogyny. And misogyny is motherfucking violence is a violent crime. Ain't even trying to hear that shit. And anyway, just because a person is convicted of a violent offense or crime does not mean that is a violent person, right? The fact of the matter is four persons coming out of prison, women in particular, coming out of prison that served long sentences for violent. I'm doing that little air quote thing for violent offenses are actually the least likely people to return to prison on either, like a technical violation or a new fucking case, versus people who have done short sentences for nonviolent crimes, particularly if these things are related to substance abuse. And what that really means to me, what it signifies to me, is all these treatment programs and shit you got are super inadequate and unhelpful and not reflective of actual needs. You feel me? So you change those and quit criminalizing and pathologizing those people that keep fucking up and going back to prison.


What would you want to see done specifically for criminalized survivors in prison?


Let them the fuck out and make sure they have a place to live and a job if they want one. You know what I'm saying? And a chance to heal, right? A place to live and a chance to heal and the support that they need.


I could not have said that any better myself. Let them out and support their needs. Monica continues to speak and write about incarceration. If you're interested in hearing more from her, make sure to check out her writing on We'll share links to her articles in the show notes. And if you like what you heard today, consider subscribing to Lemonada Premium. It's $5 a month and you'll have access to a ton of different content across all of Lemonada's shows. Thank you for listening to this episode. Once again, we are so happy that Nikki is home with her family. We hope that this new beginning for Nikki is a reminder that with understanding and empathy for survivors of domestic violence, there's the possibility of more new beginnings. That's all for now. Bye bye.


Hey, friends.


It's Megan Trainor and her big bro, Ryan Trainor and her husband, Daryl Sabara.


Each week on our podcast working on it, we share behind the scenes stories and bring you into our hilarious and heartfelt conversations.


Sometimes with amazing guests, we tackle everything from navigating Hollywood to mental health to Megan becoming a mother, Daryl becoming a father, and so much more.


We'll get into the nitty gritty of our lives and leave no detail behind. Prepare to laugh, cry, and hopefully learn something new.


Listen to new episodes out every Wednesday wherever you get your podcasts.


Last day from Lemonade media explores the moments that change us. Those times where you look back and say, whoa, one day I was myself and the next I wasn't. I'm Stephanie Whittleswax, and I have seen time and time again how sharing these stories can change lives. So do you have a moment in your life that changed you fundamentally and forever. What happened? How did you move through it? And how did you eventually start again? If you'd like to share your story, go to bit le lastdaystories. Bit ly lastdaystories we can't wait to hear from.