Reality star Paris Hilton detailed the horrific abuse she experienced while living at congregate care facilities as a teen during a press conference Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
‘I was strangled, slapped across the face, watched in the shower by male staff, called vulgar names, forced to take medication without a proper 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 recounted.
She was surrounded by Sen. Jeff Merkley and Reps. Ro Khanna, Adam Schiff and Rosa DeLauro, who are introducing the ‘Accountability for Congregate Care Act of 2021’ to both houses of Congress, which would provide federal oversight to the ‘troubled teen’ industry.
Paris Hilton detailed the horrific abuse she experienced as a teen when she was sent away to congregate care facilities at a Capitol Hill press conference on Wednesday
Paris Hilton was joined by four Democratic lawmakers who plan to introduce the Accountability for Congregate Care Act of 2021 in both houses of Congress
Hilton, who was joined by other survivors and her mother Kathy – with camera crews on-hand shooting footage for her forthcoming reality TV show – introduced herself not as ‘Paris Hilton, but as a survivor.’
‘For 20 years I couldn’t sleep at night, with memories of physical violence, the feeling of loneliness, the loss of peers, rush through my mind,’ she said. ‘This was not just insomnia. It was trauma.’
She recalled how at age 16, she was ripped out of her bed in the middle of the night by two men asking her if she wanted to go ‘the easy way or the hard way.’
‘Thinking I was being kidnapped I screamed for my parents,’ she said. ‘And as I was being physically dragged out of my house, I just saw them crying in the hallway.’
‘They didn’t come to my rescue that night,’ she continued. ‘This was my introduction to the troubled teen industry.’
Hilton said her family had been tricked.
‘My parents were promised that tough love would fix me and that sending me across the country was the only way,’ Hilton said.
As a teen, Hilton was in four facilities over a two-year period.
‘And my experience at each one haunts me to this day,’ she said.
‘At Provo Canyon School in Utah, I was given clothes with a number on the tag. I was no longer me. I was only number 127,’ she said. ‘I was forced to stay indoors for 11 months straight. No sunlight, no fresh air. These were considered privileges.’
‘Children were regularly hit, thrown into walls, even sexually abused a Provo,’ she added.
Hilton told the large crowd of reporters gathered that her situation wasn’t unique.
Hilton was able to leave Provo Canyon school in 1999 after she turned 18, before embarking on a modelling career. Here she is pictured in 2000
Hilton was shipped off to a series of behavior modification schools following a rebellious phase as a teenager while living at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City with her family (pictured: a teenage Paris Hilton moving into a school for ‘behavior modification’, taken from ‘This is Paris’ documentary released in 2020)
‘The multi-billion dollar troubled teen industry has been able to mislead parents, school districts, child welfare agencies and juvenile justice systems for decades,’ she said.
She pointed to an incident at Lakeside Academy in Michigan, in which 16-year-old Cornelius Frederick was restrained for 12 minutes by seven staff members, later dying.
‘Why?’ Hilton asked. ‘Because he threw a sandwich in the cafeteria. And for this he died.’
The Accountablity for Congregate Care Act of 2021 codifies a bill of rights for young people in congregate care facilities – which includes both boarding schools and foster care facilities.
It creates a Department of Justice commission to analyze the problem and give grants to states to implement improvement measures.
Khanna told reporters after Hilton left – without taking questions – that he didn’t anticipate a lot of resistance to the bill on Capitol Hill.
‘This bill of rights provides protections that I wasn’t afforded, like access to education, to the outdoors, freedom from abusive treatment, and even the basic right to speak and move freely,’ Hilton said.
‘If I had these rights and could have of exercised them, I would have been saved from over 20 years of trauma and severe PTSD,’ she said.
Hilton previously helped get a bill passed in Utah, where Provo Canyon is located, which would provide the industry with more regulation in that state.