Paris Hilton revealed on Wednesday her nightmare experience at a Utah treatment center for trouble teens where she was sleep-deprived, overmedicated and forced to submit to random midnight gynecological exams while male staffers watched.
Hilton, 41, held a press conference in the morning calling for the passage of the Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act which would increase reporting and oversight of these institutions and put an end to what she said was a ‘tragically overlooked children’s human rights crisis.’
The hotel heiress also penned an op-ed in USA Today that detailed some of the abusive treatment that she says she suffered at Provo Canyon School, in Utah where her parents sent her for a year in the 1990s to address her attention deficit disorder with the institution’s ‘tough love’ treatment.
Paris Hilton, 41, brought a simulation of a solitary confinement cell to show the public how it felt to be locked in such a small space
‘On my first day, I was forced to remove all my clothes, squat and cough, and submit to a gynecological exam – all watched closely by male staff,’ she wrote in the opinion piece.
‘Although it was an extremely uncomfortable experience, I was led to believe it was legitimate, routine check for contraband.
‘But what I couldn’t understand as a 16-year-old why that internal exam would be don to me frequently during my time at Provo, and only in the middle of the night.’
Hilton detailed the ordeal she suffered in her 2020 documentary ‘This is Paris’ describing how her parents had been ‘conned’ into sending her to the facility.
She said routinely she was awaken in the night by the staff shining a flashlight in her face then taken to the ‘exam room’ where she was forced to lie on a padded table, spread her legs and submit to a pelvic exam.
‘I remember crying while they held me down,’ she said in her op-ed. ‘I kept saying ‘No!’ an asking ‘Why?’ They just said ‘Shut up. Be quiet. Stop struggling or you’ll go to Obs.’
Obs was another name for solitary confinement, a cold spare room with drain and a roll of toilet paper where she was held barely clothed. She said she would pace the floor in Obs until should couldn’t stand anymore.
The experience has left her with lasting emotional scars.
‘I’m still processing the trauma, doing the hard work it takes to tell the whole story in a memoir that will be published next year,’ she said.
The Provo Canyon School, where Paris Hilton spent a year, routinely gave her gynecological exams in the middle of the night. If she resisted, they would force her into solitary confinement
Hilton called for the passage of the Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act which would cut funding for these institutions
Hilton comforts another survivor of a troubled-teen treatment facility after a press conference in Washington, D.C. to promote the issue
Obs was a particularly traumatic experience for her.
‘Solitary has always been one of the sources of my recurring nightmares since I left Provo,’ she wrote on her Instagram account accompanying a photo of her in mock solitary cell. ‘The helplessness & powerlessness stays with you.
‘But here, today, I am taking back my power. This solitary booth represents the environment the youth in residential treatment programs are subjected to.
‘It was so important to me to bring this booth to Capitol Hill so policy makers can experience and empathize with this community.
‘We must pass the Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act! It is my hope that members on both sides will hear our voice & take action!’
The teen treatment center, where a 12-month stay costs up to $300,000, has faced previous accusations of beating, drugging and sexually abusing its clients
She said that she wasn’t the only one mistreated. There were many girls who were overmedicated and sleep-deprived who were abused.
‘This was especially true for girls who got dragged to those sham medical exams and the ones who adult male staff leered at as we showered,’ she wrote.
‘If we tried to protest or question anything, they said it was a bad dream. They told us to stop making things up.
‘But looking back on these experiences an adult woman, I can recognize these exams for what they were: sexual assault of children.’
Hilton said that she suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and insomnia from the experience.
Hilton was joined by an upstart group called Unsilenced, which was formed to provide support for victims of these facilities, lobby for the passage of the Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act and educate the public and lawmakers of their abuse.
Co-founder of Unsilenced, Meg Appelgate, who spent four years in Wyoming and Montana group treatment centers, said that Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley and Silicone Valley Congressman Ro Khanna (D-Cal.) are all behind the legislation.
The federal law would put an end to the billion-dollar industry that she says preys on vulnerable families. The bill would stop public funds like Medicaid, Title IV-E and special education funding from going to these types of institutions.
The Provo Canyon School did not return a messaged left for comment.
The Provo Canyon School for troubled teens has faced previous accusations of abuse, most notably by Paris Hilton, who has launched a campaign to shut the school down
Paris Hilton wears a shirt labeled ‘survivor’ at a protest outside the school