Paris Hilton urges feds to reform facilities for ‘troubled teens’

On Wednesday morning, Paris Hilton climbed into a 4-by-4 imitation cinder block solitary cell erected on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., zipped up a black sweatshirt with the word “warrior” dazzled on the back and stood locked in – her knees bent to her chest as she wiped away her tears.

The Hilton Hotel heiress, who for more than a year has been advocating for reform of congregate care facilities and residential treatment programs for ‘troubled’ minors, stayed in the box – an art installation with the phrase “prevent abuse, neglect and death of institutionalized youth in America” clambered to the side – for about five minutes.

Hilton’s performance preceded a press conference held by survivor-led nonprofit advocacy groups Unsilenced.org and Breaking Code Silence which brought together nearly 200 survivors in DC this week to urge the federal government to take action against abuse and neglect in these establishments.

Hilton, an entrepreneur, model and actress, said at the press conference that her few minutes in the isolation box reminded her of her time in a treatment program for teenagers in the 1990s.

She said she had experienced ‘firsthand’ how traumatic solitary confinement can be during her time at the Provo Canyon school in Utah and described being sedated before being thrown into isolation.

“Men much bigger than me were grabbing me by the arms, dragging me down the hall and physically pushing me into this dirty cement 4 by 4 room you see here today,” she said, pointing the isolated art installation.

“It’s always so hard for me to talk out loud about all the extremely painful physical, emotional and even sexual abuse,” she added as she choked up.

She said she could not recount the sexual abuse she suffered in Provo, instead referring the audience to read a USA Today op-ed published Wednesday morning. In the editorial, Hilton chronicles repeated gynecological “exams” in the middle of the night.

“On the first day, I was forced to remove all my clothes, squat and cough, and submit to a gynecological examination – all closely watched by male staff,” Hilton wrote.

“I was woken up several times by staff who shone a flashlight in my face, I got out of bed and was told to be quiet as I was led down the hallway to my dorm. to an ‘exam hall,'” she wrote in the op-ed. “Sleep deprived and heavily medicated, I didn’t understand what was going on. I was forced to lie down on a padded table, spread my legs and undergo gynecological examinations.”

Wednesday’s press conference included speeches from a number of other people who had stayed in congregate care facilities and their families, including Nehemiah Wood, the brother of 17-year-old Naomi Wood, who spoke about the death of his sister by medical negligence in a girl. facility in Florida which is now permanently closed.

“Naomi’s death is a heartbreaking example of hundreds of preventable deaths due to neglect and physical abuse at the hands of troubled teen industry staff who claim to treat and provide mental health care to more than 120,000 young people every year,” Hilton said.

“For too long, our government has allowed these deceptive industries to operate in the shadows with no real transparency or accountability,” she said.

Republican Utah State Senator Mike McKell, who previously partnered with Hilton to create Utah legislation aimed at reforming the “troubled teen” industry, attended the conference. hurry. This bill was signed into law by the Governor of Utah in March 2021.

On Tuesday, Hilton met with a number of lawmakers and was seen at the White House promoting a bill, which has yet to be introduced, that would strengthen protections for minors in the industry.

The Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act is initiated by Democratic Representative Ro Khanna of California and Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. Breaking Code Silence on its Instagram account wrote that the introduction of the bill was halted this week due to lack of sufficient bipartisan support.

“This legislation was scheduled to be introduced in Congress this week, but after consulting with our advisors and sponsors, we have made the difficult decision to delay the introduction of the federal bill,” Breaking Code Silence wrote, adding, “In the In today’s political climate, in order to pass any bill, it must have bipartisan support.At this time, we are seeking to get conservative members of Congress to sign our bill into law.

Hilton was also seen meeting Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa. A spokesperson for the senator told Axios that “the meeting was great and went well, concluding with their Twitter photo.” She also met with Senator Tim Scott, R.S.C.

Hilton has previously come to the nation’s capital to advocate for collective care reform. She was in Washington last year supporting the Federal Accountability for Congregate Care Act, introduced in October 2021, led by Khanna, Merkley and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. The bill is still making its way through Congress.

Prior to her visit last year, Hilton spoke about her 11-month experience at the Provo Canyon school in her 2020 documentary, “This is Paris,” and in a Washington Post op-ed.

“It was the most painful and traumatic experience of my life… I woke up and it was a nightmare, being physically abused, yelled at, restrained, locked in rooms, taking forced medication, being watched by male staff while I took a shower – – I had virtually no human rights,” Hilton told ABC’s Kaylee Hartung on “Nightline” last year.

The Provo School in Utah still operates today. In September, the school said in a statement to ABC that it changed ownership shortly after Hilton was there and could not comment on the situation, but had “no tolerated or encouraged any form of abuse”. ABC asked for further comment.

“We deserve to be treated like human beings. These kids are being treated worse than someone would be in prison. It’s horrible,” Hilton told Hartung last year.

“It’s literally hell on earth.”

Richard F. Gandhi