Home Globe Paris Hilton testifies to US Congress about childhood abuse

Paris Hilton testifies to US Congress about childhood abuse

by editor

Paris Hilton has called for change to youth treatment facilities and described her own traumatic experience of alleged abuse before a US congressional committee.

The American socialite and businesswoman said she was “force-fed medications and sexually abused by staff” after being sent to a private youth facility in Utah as at a teenager.

Her testimony shines a light on the so-called “troubled teen industry”.

While some children are placed with relatives or foster families, others are sent to treatment centres that are essentially group homes for children – some of whom have complex medical or behavioural needs.

Hilton, 43, accused the industry, which is worth billions of dollars, of being more interested in making money than protecting and caring for the vulnerable children it is responsible for.

The former reality TV star is an outspoken advocate for children in youth facilities as well as those in the foster care system. She has previously spoken about her own experience through a book, documentary and interviews.

Hilton says that when she was 16 years old, she was taken by strangers from her bed in the middle of the night. Her school grades had been slipping, and her parents were worried about her behaviour.

But they “had no idea” what the facility was really like and were “continually being lied [to] and manipulated by the staff”, Hilton told the committee.

“They just thought it was going to be a normal boarding school,” she said. “And when I got there, there was no therapy. We would just constantly be torn down, abused, screamed and yelled at.”

All of her communication with the outside world was controlled, and there was always someone there when she spoke to her parents on the phone, Hilton testified.

“So if I said even one negative thing about the facility, they immediately would hang up the phone and then I would be punished and either physically beaten or thrown into solitary confinement,” she said.

Hilton said the “inhumane” treatment she endured will affect her for the rest of her life.

She is urging US lawmakers to pass a bill, called the Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act.

It would see the troubled teen industry federally managed, so that abuse reporting systems are more transparent and responsible. There would also be nation-wide guidance of best practices in the centres, so that the children’s diverse needs can be recognised and respected.

A new report from the Department of Health and Human Services found that many US states do not adequately keep track of how children in these facilities are being treated, nor record instances of abuse.

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