Hotel heiress and activist Paris Hilton shared the alleged sexual abuse and threats she endured over 20 years ago while staying at Provo Canyon School, a psychiatric youth residential treatment center in the city of Provo.
Her experiences began after being taken from her home at 16 and sent away after her parents believed her attention deficit disorder would only be alleviated with “tough love.”
“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,” Hilton explained in the op-ed.
“Although it was an extremely uncomfortable experience, I was led to believe it was a legitimate, routine check for contraband,” she wrote. “But what I couldn’t understand as a 16-year-old girl was why that internal exam would be done to me frequently during my time at Provo and only during the middle of the night.”
The reality TV star said many of these exams would occur while she was “sleep-deprived and heavily medicated.” When she would rebel against the exams, residential staff threatened to observe her, which was known at the school as “solitary confinement.”
Hilton said that by looking back at these horrific experiences as an adult woman, “I can recognize these exams for what they were: The sexual assault of children.”
According to the school’s website, the Provo Canyon School has been in operation since 1971. The school has an alleged long history of abuse which was covered extensively by The Salt Lake Tribune in 2020.
HuffPost has reached out to the school for a response to Hilton’s claims of abuse.
The harrowing details of Hilton’s abuse have become the catalyst for her lobbying efforts for new legislature surrounding the unfair treatment of children at youth residential treatment centers across the U.S.
Hilton attended a press conference on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to show solidarity with Unsilenced, a national non-profit focused on fighting institutional child abuse,and advocate for other abuse survivors.
“For decades, children in institutional settings have been denied basic human rights protections against widespread abuse, neglect and preventable death,” Hilton said in a press release before the conference.
“Survivors are ready to tell Congress that it’s time for leadership, action, and it’s time to FINALLY protect children placed in the Troubled Teen Industry.”
A day before publishing her op-ed, Hilton visited Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) during a trip to the Capitol and the White House to discuss ways to put an end to child abuse in these facilities.
The Republican lawmaker posted a picture of himself and Hilton on Twitter.
“Met w[ith] Paris Hilton to discuss how we can stop the abuse of children in residential care facilities,” Grassley tweeted on Tuesday.
In February 2021, Hilton testified at a state Senate committee hearing at the Utah Capitol regarding a bill that would require the government to oversee activity at these centers and document when restraints are used.
“Talking about something so personal was and is still terrifying,” Hilton told the committee then. “But I cannot go to sleep at night knowing that there are children that are experiencing the same abuse that I and so many others went through, and neither should you.”
During her testimony, she also called on President Joe Biden and others in Congress to pursue federal legislation.
In 2020, Hilton released a documentary titled “This Is Paris,” chronicling her life, including her time at Provo. She told USA Today that she plans to publish a memoir about her traumatic experiences within the following year.