Domestic violence charity, Staffordshire Women’s Aid, says more regulation is needed in the adult webcam industry to prevent more tragedies.
Hope Barden’s lifeless body was discovered by her housemate at her Staffordshire flat last year after she died from asphyxiation during an online sex act.
Dickie James, Chief Executive of Staffordshire Women’s Aid says the death of Barden highlights a need for more awareness of the dangers of online prostitution.
“As an organisation, we are very concerned about these websites, and the potential risks,” said James.
“There are all sorts of risks, such as being stalked, led into acts that are dangerous, or activities being used for blackmail. Sadly, the case of Hope Barden shows how much risk is involved.”
Barden, 21, had been a support worker for people with learning disabilities in Burton-upon-Trent but used the online adult film industry as a way to supplement her income.
Pub landlord, Jerome Dangar, had encouraged Barden to engage in dangerous and degrading sexual practices.
Dangar was online when Hope died but made no attempt to alert the emergency services when the young woman lost consciousness.
At the inquest into Hope’s death last month, her mother said she was “left to die”.
“It is a sign that women are still seen as available for objectification, and it seems to me that there is a strongly misogynistic element to men who derive pleasure from seeing women in pain, fantasy or otherwise,” added James.
“I also feel very strongly that the websites that advertise in this way need to be held to account, and ensure safety for those young women they are using for this exploitation.
“Any form of violent pornography is a way for individuals to access violent fantasies, but there are always real people involved, and often very vulnerable women.
“It seems that there is something about the adult webcam industry that gives the impression of no responsibility because there is no physical contact.
“But there is contact, and there is risk. And these violent fantasies are in themselves very dangerous.”
Dangar, 45, from Tintagel, Cornwall, killed himself in his cell at HP Dartmoor whilst the Crown Prosecution Service considered a charge of manslaughter against him.
Speaking after the inquest Detective Inspector John Quilty, from Staffordshire CID, said: “The death of Dangar ultimately prevented prosecutors from charging him in connection with Hope’s death as a result of sexually-related role play.
“This type of online sexual activity is extremely dangerous and the repeated persuasion and dangerous requests that Dangar placed on Hope ultimately led to her death.”
Hope’s sister, Lily Barden, also believes specific guidelines are needed to ensure that both the performer and the customer clearly understand what is and what is not acceptable by law.
“The main thing that isn’t acceptable is being able to watch someone (potentially) die on webcam and then not do anything about it,” she said.
“What isn’t acceptable is putting something around your neck which potentially could kill you and leave family and friends devastated and broken.”
“If there’s anything positive that can come out of this ridiculous situation it’s that young girls should be sensible and think about people you are going to hurt from your actions or just don’t do it,” she said.
“But I feel there should be some sort of electronic contract between the performer and the person paying or watching that they both understand – like terms and conditions.
“If the performer is agreeing and contracted with whatever it is, they know what they’re doing, and the guys or girls who are watching know what they are getting themselves into as well.
“That way there’s no wires crossed.”
Currently, there is no specific law to directly govern the growing industry of webcamming.