A new investigation into the suicide of a porn star and its alleged connection to an online bullying campaign has uncovered "cryptic and startling" details.
In an upcoming podcast for Audible, The Last Days of August, British journalist Jon Ronson "unravels the never-before-told story" of the possible link between Twitter bullying and the death of August Ames.
Ronson, who had just finished a series called The Butterfly Effect investigating the "consequences of free online porn", began looking into the case at the request of Ames' husband, porn producer Kevin Moore.
"What neither Kevin nor Ronson realised was that Ronson would soon hear rumours and secrets hinting at a very different story — something mysterious and unexpected and terrible," the Audible press release says.
In a trailer for the series coming in January 2019, Ronson speaks to porn star Jessica Drake. "I've become this really weird container of knowledge," she tells Ronson during an interview in her Las Vegas hotel room featured in the trailer.
"People are coming to me and they're telling me things about him, and her, their relationship and so much stuff, and I feel like somebody needs to say it but I can't say it because I'm the fricking a**hole in this situation. Somebody has to help me. Somebody has to say it."
Ames, real name Mercedes Grabowski, took her own life in December 2017 after backlash to tweets stating that she would not work with "crossovers" — men who had appeared in gay adult movies.
"Whichever (lady) performer is replacing me tomorrow for @EroticaXNew, you're shooting with a guy who has shot gay porn, just to let cha know," she wrote. "Do agents really not care about who they're representing? I do my homework for my body."
While many supported her, the 23-year-old was branded a "homophobe" and bullied online by other adult performers, with one gay porn star saying the world was "awaiting your apology or for you to swallow a cyanide pill".
Three days later, Ames sent her final tweet, "F**k y'all." She was found the next day dead in a park 20 minutes from her home. It was later revealed she left a note for her parents apologising for taking her own life.
Ames' death exposed the rift between the gay and straight porn industry and sparked a major debate about cyber-bullying, stigmatisation and mental health. It coincided with the deaths of four other young women in the space of two months.
At the time, Australian porn star Maddison Missina said bullying in the industry was common. "Not a week goes by that I don't see someone getting cyber attacked from a member of our own industry and that's really sad," she said.
Fellow Aussie porn star Lucie Bee said she had also been bullied online and it was "very frustrating to be in this industry and to know that stuff like this could be avoided".
In the Audible trailer, Moore tells Ronson about the last time he saw his wife alive.
"She tweeted out on December 3 that she did not want to do a scene with this particular male performer she had never heard of, she didn't feel comfortable doing it," he said.
"She couldn't look away from that phone. I would constantly be like, 'Let's get away from this.' And she would be like, 'Oh, OK', and then she would fall right back into it. She said, 'I'm going to go tanning, I'm going to go to the gym'. We hugged and said 'I love you' to each other. She walked out that door and disappeared."
He adds that he knows "no one believes me but she hugged me and kissed me". "She acted normal. I should have stopped her," he said.
"Within an hour of her leaving I had started texting her and no response. I must have called her thousands of times that night. I have never felt dread like that. And then the next morning was when the coroners contacted me. She had taken her life in a park in Camarillo."
In statement in January this year, Moore — who still posts tweets from his deceased wife's account — accused Drake of bullying.
"Mercedes herself said to me, 'Jessica Drake hates me', several hours before she disappeared," he wrote. "Ms Drake caused irreparable harm."
He added that just as Hollywood was having a "watershed moment", so too was the adult industry. "Female performers have a right to make whatever choices they want with their bodies due to the highly intimate acts they are performing," he said.
"Period. End of discussion. No agent, no company, and certainly not social media gets to have any say in what a women chooses."
He told Jonson, "I'm not going to deny this, I'm angry. I lost the woman I loved to a bunch of people's stupid opinions on social media. So am I just supposed to roll over?"
Drake denied the allegations, telling Rolling Stone in March she had since received "weeks of death threats and boycotts" and had to hire an extra bodyguard while hosting a porn industry awards show.
"I've always tried to use my platform to do good," she said. "I've always tried to educate people. I don't how it got (sic) massive amounts of people saying I was responsible for a girl's suicide. I wasn't bullying her."
News.com.au has reached out to Moore for comment.
— with Natalie Wolfe
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