Style: Investigative & True Crime
Average Episode Length: 50 minutes
The trailer for this podcast had a statement that got me hooked instantly - “We love a true crime story when the woman is dead… only in death can she secure her status as the perfect victim. No voice. No power. No pulse. That’s why Nikki’s story is the upside-down story. It’s the story we don’t tell. The one where she survives.” Believe Her is a podcast that grapples with the assumptions we make about domestic and sexual violence. It dives deep into the ways in which survival is criminalized. The podcast follows the story of Nikki Addimando, a young mother of two who shot and killed her partner, Chris Grover. Nikki was sentenced to nineteen years to life in prison for murder. Over the course of six episodes, journalist Justine Van der Leun lays out the killing, the evidence and the aftermath. The title of the podcast gives away Justine’s position on the case. Make no mistake, this is not an unbiased narrative on the part of the host. Van der Leun spent years following this case.
Believe Her is vital listening for anyone interested in the justice system and how society fails survivors of sexual violence. Although this story follows Nikki, a white women, there are a few episodes where Van der Leun highlights the stories of criminalized survivors of color. Women of color are overrepresented throughout the system and often face harsher sentences. Black women outnumber their counterparts by almost three times, representing 30 percent of the prison population and only 13 percent of the general population. Although the podcast’s intent wasn’t to exclusively look a this disparity, Van der Leun did position Nikki’s narrative in the greater context of crime and punishment in the United States.
The podcast weaves interviews with Nikki’s friends, sister, former therapist, and her midwife. We learn about how Nikki’s mom repeatedly failed her and that Chris wasn’t the first man to abuse Nikki (which often is the case with victims of sexual violence). A lifetime of PTSD and pain made her unable to completely recall timelines of abuse that overlapped and were possibly conflated. This podcast details an unforgettable and at times, infuriating story that’s just one example of how the “justice” system fails survivors of sexual violence.
If you liked Cover Story or I’m Not a Monster, you will probably like this podcast. Listen wherever you get your podcasts.