Paris Hilton appeared on Capitol Hill on Wednesday in favor of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act, which legislators are expected to propose shortly in an attempt to better regulate institutions and safeguard children in their care.
Hilton made her visit after detailing her own adolescent experience at four such institutions in her 2020 documentary, This Is Paris. She mainly spoke about her time at Utah’s Provo Canyon School, which she described as “torture.”
The measure (sponsored by Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna and backed by Reps. Rosa DeLauro and Adam Schiff, as well as Sen. Jeff Merkley) seeks to ensure that children in these institutions may contact their parents, have access to clean water and nutritious food, and resist being physically restrained.
There are currently no procedures in place that mandate these safeguards.
“I was strangled, slapped across the face, watched in the shower by male staff, called vulgar names,” Hilton said. “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.”
Hilton also stated on Wednesday that her mistreatment at these facilities has caused her “over 20 years of trauma” and “severe PTSD.”
She blamed a “systemwide lack of transparency and accountability” because of which “the multibillion-dollar troubled teen industry has been able to mislead parents, school districts, child welfare agencies, and juvenile justice systems.”
STORY CONTINUES BELOW...
“It was just terrifying to be in a place every day where people who work there were sadistic and wanted to torture and hurt children,” Hilton said. “I don’t wish that on anyone.”
“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.”
Watch Paris Hilton’s full remarks while visiting Capitol Hill to advocate for a bill overseeing congregate care facilities and the ‘troubled teen industry’
(warning: distressing) pic.twitter.com/AcA3NyL3FF
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) October 20, 2021
“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.”
Thank you @WashingtonPost for allowing me to share my voice in this important op-ed. Since releasing my documentary, This Is Paris, I made a promise to never stop fighting for children and teens still suffering from institutional abuse. Read now:https://t.co/fjyWbz59K3 pic.twitter.com/POBRPfbzsn
— Paris Hilton (@ParisHilton) October 18, 2021
“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.”
Prior to her Capitol Hill speech, Hilton was grateful that she spoke out, 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 wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post, discussing the same experiences that she outlined 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 these facilities 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.”