Paris Hilton speaks at a Stop Institutional Child Abuse event, Wednesday, May 11, 2022 in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

A small, solitary confinement booth stood on the National Mall across from the U.S. Capitol for an hour on Wednesday morning, emblazoned with the words: “Prevent the abuse, neglect, & death of institutionalized youth in America.” 

Inside the brick-painted stall – visible through a glass-paneled wall – stood reality star and media mogul Paris Hilton. 


What You Need To Know

  • Paris Hilton traveled to Washington, D.C. this week to push for federal legislation that would mandate more oversight for youth and teen treatment facilities
  • In 2020, Hilton revealed she was mentally and physically abused as a teen during her time at Provo Canyon School, where she was sent to treat a behavioral disorder
  • Last year, Utah passed legislation for facilities that treat teens with behavioral and mental health issues after Hilton gave emotional testimony in support of the bill  
  • Hilton has met with Democrats and policy makers at the White House, as well as a handful of Republicans, including Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina

The 41-year-old traveled to the nation’s capital city to push for federal legislation that would mandate more oversight for youth and teen treatment facilities, a highly personal topic for the TV personality. 

In 2020, Hilton revealed she was mentally and physically abused as a teen during her time at Provo Canyon School, where she was sent to treat a behavioral disorder. In her documentary “This Is Paris,” and in subsequent testimonies and publications, Hilton recalled that staff members would beat her, force her to take unknown pills, watch her shower and send her to solitary confinement without clothes as punishment. 

“That experience, and the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse I suffered, led to years of trauma-induced insomnia and complex post-traumatic stress disorder that I and countless other survivors of institutional child abuse have struggled with for years,” Hilton wrote in a USA Today op-ed published on Wednesday. 

Hilton has successfully pushed for laws to regulate such institutions in at least one state. Early last year, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed a bill requiring more government oversight of youth residential treatment centers and documentation for when they use restraints. It also prohibited treatment centers from using sedation or mechanical restraints without prior authorization.

The legislation for facilities that treat teens with behavioral and mental health issues gained final approval in the Legislature in early March, about a month after Hilton gave emotional testimony in support of the bill.  

Last October, Hilton and other activists took their fight to the federal level. 

“It’s clear that the state-by-state patchwork of limited, weak oversight and inconsistent licensing requirements is not working,” Hilton said at an October 2021 appearance outside the U.S. Capitol. “Federal law and funding are desperately needed to bring real reform and true accountability to congregate care in America.”

The proposal was supported by Democrats Rep. Ro Khanna and Rep. Adam Schiff of California, Rep. DeLauro of Connecticut and Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, who wanted to create a bill of rights to protect kids who are in congregate care facilities. Those rights would include being free from abuse and neglect, freedom from physical and chemical restraints and the right to be free from abusive or traumatizing treatment by staff or other youths. The proposal also had data-collection and funding pieces.

While the proposal has alternatively referred to as the Accountability for Congregate Care Act and the Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act, no bill has been formally introduced in either the House or the Senate, though Khanna’s bill was reportedly set to be put forward at some point this year. A spokesperson for Merkley’s office told Spectrum News the senator aims to reintroduce a version of the bill “soon.” 

And so Hilton has, once again, traveled to Washington to push for reform, this time meeting with a slew of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as well as making a visit to the White House to make her case. 

“Taxpayers are spending an estimated $23 billion a year to place children with disabilities, special education students, foster youth, and other vulnerable kids in these often dangerous, traumatic, and sometimes even deadly facilities,” she said at a Wednesday rally, going on to say of her fellow survivors: “No one has believed them. I’m here to say that it’s the truth, I experienced it myself and I want to put an end to this.”

According to Unsilenced, an advocacy group for survivors of the “troubled teen industry” which joined Hilton at Wednesday’s gathering, there are between 120,000 – 200,000 teens and children housed in residential care facilities across the United States and around the world. 

Hilton said it is “incredibly important” to bring the issue to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, saying in part: “There are children dying in the name of treatment. 

“This needs to be a bipartisan issue. So both Democrats and Republicans need to come together because children need their help,” Hilton told TMZ in Washington. “We can’t do this without them.”

During this week’s visit, Hilton has met with Democrats and policy makers at the White House, as well as a handful of Republicans, including Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 


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