The Impact of the Left Ear Podcast

Last year, actress Dakota Johnson decided that she had had enough. For too long, she had heard women’s stories of sexual abuse at the hands of powerful men, family members, boyfriends, husbands, strangers—the list goes on. Johnson knew that she had a platform to speak out on the issue, but she also knew that she shouldn’t be the one to do so.

Enter The Left Ear podcast. In 2018, Johnson set up a phone line and encouraged her followers to leave voicemails telling their stories of harassment and abuse. She got over 8,000 calls and compiled them into a podcast. Voices are pitched to preserve anonymity, but the speakers’ stories still come through poignantly clear. 



The first episode aired on September 28 and new ones premiere each Monday. The episodes range between 10 and 20 minutes in length with small breaks between each testimony for a chance to absorb and process what has been said. The voicemails are heavy, but Johnson walks listeners through the experience. Still, Johnson is careful not to insert herself into survivors’ narratives—her voice is only there to guide listeners’ interpretations by reminding us to keep an open mind and heart.

Each episode, Johnson tells listeners that we are making a difference just by taking the time to hear people’s stories. In choosing to engage our left ear— the ear closest to our heart– we are refusing to remain ignorant of this pervasive issue.

And the issue is one that couldn’t be more timely. We have started to enter the next phase of the #MeToo allegations and Time’s Up. When beginning any new chapter, it can be difficult to know how to navigate it. This is why the podcast is so important: it reminds us that these allegations don’t just happen to celebrities, but to everyday people. Its voicemail format makes us feel like we are listening to a friend, or a coworker, or an aunt. We are not strangers to their stories and that is a compelling tug at our heartstrings. We must continue to keep our left ears open and feel the empathy that these confessions provoke. That is the first step to creating change in this new part of the story on ending sexual abuse in the 21st century.

We can end it. Johnson and other celebrities are doing right by their platforms through developing resources such as this podcast. It is important to use these tools and to remember that the conversation is intersectional—anyone can be an abuser and anyone can be a survivor. As Johnson says, “We hear you. We witness you.” And hopefully, we can be driven to take action if we witness wrongdoing in our lives. If we experience it, we should be able to feel confident that people will listen to us and help us move forward. So, we must work together to ensure that Johnson’s phone line never has to receive another voicemail.

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