Paris Hilton Advocates for Child Facility Reform on Capitol Hill After Own Experiences of Abuse
By Paige Gawley
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Paris Hilton is fighting for change. The 40-year-old socialite spoke on Capitol Hill Wednesday in support of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act, which lawmakers will soon introduce in an effort to help regulate facilities and protect children in their care.
Hilton's appearance came after she detailed her own teenage experience at four such facilities in her 2020 documentary, This Is Paris. She mostly spoke about her experience at Provo Canyon School in Utah, claiming her time at the school was "torture."
Following the allegations, People reached out to the school for comment and received this response: "Originally opened in 1971, Provo Canyon School was sold by its previous ownership in August 2000. We therefore cannot comment on the operations or patient experience prior to this time."
During her Wednesday speech, Hilton began by stating that she was there "not as Paris Hilton, but as a survivor," before detailing her own alleged abuse.
"For 20 years I couldn't sleep at night, as memories of physical violence, the feeling of loneliness, the loss of peers, rushed through my mind when I shut my eyes," she said. "This was not just insomnia, it was trauma."
"One night when I was 16 years old, I woke up to two large men entering my bedroom, asking if I wanted to go 'the easy way or the hard way.' Thinking I was being kidnapped, I screamed for my parents," Hilton continued. "As I was being physically dragged out of my house, I saw them crying in the hallway. They didn't come to my rescue that night. This was my introduction to the troubled teen industry."
According to Hilton, her parents, Kathy and Richard Hilton, "were promised that tough love would fix me, and that sending me across the country was the only way."
"I was sent to four facilities over a two-year period, and my experience at each one haunts me to this day," she said. "I was strangled, slapped across the face, watched in the shower by male staff, called vulgar names, forced to take medication without a diagnosis, not given a proper education, thrown into solitary confinement in a room covered in scratch marks and smeared in blood, and so much more."
At the Utah school, Hilton claimed, "I was given clothes with a number on the tag. I was no longer me. I was only number 127. I was forced to stay indoors for 11 months straight, no sunlight, no fresh air. These were considered privileges."
Hilton additionally alleged that "children were regularly hit, thrown into walls, and even sexually abused at Provo."
"I wish I could tell you that what I experienced and witnessed was unique or even rare, but sadly it's not," she said. "Every day in America, children in congregate care settings are being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused. Children are even dying at the hands of those responsible for their care."
Hilton said that such alleged behavior in the "multibillion-dollar troubled teen industry" has continued because facilities have "been able to mislead parents, school districts, child welfare agencies and juvenile justice systems for decades," adding that there is "a system-wide lack of transparency and accountability."
The bill, Hilton said, "will create a world where all youth have the support they need to heal, thrive, and not just survive," as it "creates an urgently needed bill of rights to ensure that every child placed into congregate care facilities is provided a safe and humane environment."
"If I'd had these rights and could've exercised them, I would've been saved from over 20 years of trauma and severe PTSD," she added, before urging President Joe Biden, along with both Democrats and Republicans, to pass the bill because "it's a basic human rights issue."
Watch Paris Hilton’s full remarks while visiting Capitol Hill to advocate for a bill overseeing congregate care facilities and the ‘troubled teen industry’
Prior to her Capitol Hill speech, Hilton recalled being unsure if she would ever speak out about her experience, but being grateful that she did, as it led to "the most empowering, rewarding, and impactful time of my life."
"What a year it’s been, and this journey is just beginning. I’m so proud to be fighting for change, so that no child ever has to endure the abuse I went through," she wrote on Instagram. "So far, legislation protecting children in congregate care has been passed in Utah, Oregon, Maine, Missouri and Northern Ireland, and we are supporting legislation in California, Massachusetts and at the Federal level."
"Being a survivor is a badge that I get to carry with both strength and resiliency," she continued. "Together, as survivors, we will keep turning our pain into purpose."
Hilton also recently penned an op-ed in The Washington Post, discussing many of the same experiences that she detailed in her Capitol Hill speech.
"I couldn’t report this abuse because all communication with the outside world was monitored and censored," she wrote. "Many congregate-care facilities drive wedges between parents and children by telling parents not to believe their kids when they report mistreatment and by telling children that their cries for help will never be believed. And some children in thesefacilities have no loved ones to turn to."
Hilton concluded, "Ensuring that children, including at-risk children, are safe from institutional abuse, neglect and coercion isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue -- it’s a basic human rights issue that requires immediate action. Those in power have an obligation to protect the powerless."