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.
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.’
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
Paris Hilton (left) kisses her fiance Carter Milliken Reum (right) before appearing at a press conference Wednesday with Democratic lawmakers
Paris Hilton wore an all-black suit to Capitol Hill Wednesday, where she appeared at an outdoor press conference with four Democratic lawmakers to talk about a bill that would regulate the ‘troubled teen’ industry
‘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 at Provo,’ she added.
Hilton told the large crowd of reporters gathered that her situation wasn’t unique.
Paris Hilton (center) hugs fellow survivor, 12-year-old Uvea Spezza-Lopin (right) as they wait their turns to speak at Wednesday’s press conference on Capitol Hill
Paris Hilton (left) and fellow survivor 12-year-old Uvea Spezza-Lopin (right) both talked about the abuse they experienced at youth care centers in front of Democratic lawmakers in Washington Wednesday
Paris Hilton stands in front of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday where she talked about the horrific abuse she suffered at the hands of the ‘troubled teen’ industry
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.
In April, Hilton helped get a bill passed in Utah, where Provo Canyon is located, which would provide the industry with more regulation in that state.
Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna (center) speaks at a press conference attended by Paris Hilton (left) on Wednesday
Paris Hilton is seen over the head of Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut