In my 2020 documentary, ‘C’est Paris’, I revealed a secret I’d kept for over 20 years: when I was 16, I was abducted from my home in the middle of the night and spent nearly two years at a series of residential processing facilities. My parents had been tricked into thinking that my diagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder behavior would be corrected with “tough love”.
I’m still processing the trauma, doing the hard work it takes to tell the whole story in a memoir to be released next year. It takes all my courage to talk about it, but I couldn’t bear to know that kids as young as 8 are being sent to these “troubled teen” programs by parents who don’t know and government agencies who don’t care. don’t care. .
child sexual abuse
The final stop on my terrible journey was Provo Canyon School, a containment facility I was sent to after escaping from a few boot-camp type locations. On the first day, I was forced to take off all my clothes, squat and cough, and undergo a gynecological examination – all closely watched by male staff. Although it was an extremely uncomfortable experience, I was led to believe it was a legitimate street check for contraband. But what I didn’t understand as a 16-year-old girl was why this internal exam would be done to me frequently during my stay in Provo, and only in the middle of the night.
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I was woken up several times by the staff who shone a flashlight in my face, I got out of bed and was told to shut up as I was led down the hallway from my dorm to an “examination room”. 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. I remember crying as they held me down. I kept saying “No!” and asking, “Why?” They just said, “Shut up. Shut up. Stop struggling or you’ll go to the Obs.”
Obs – short for observation – was solitary confinement in a tiny cinderblock room with nothing but a drain and a roll of toilet paper. The room was freezing and I was almost naked. I paced until I could no longer stand. Then I huddled on the floor and swayed back and forth, forcing myself to think about the life I would create for myself after stepping outside.
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So many children around me were just faded away. Hopeless. No light. This was especially true for the girls who were being dragged into these mock medical exams and the ones the adult male staff ogled while we showered. If we tried to protest or question anything, they said it was a bad dream. They told us to stop making things up. But looking back on those experiences as an adult woman, I can recognize those exams for what they were: child molestation.
This experience and the physical, emotional and sexual abuse I suffered led to years of trauma-induced insomnia and complex post-traumatic stress disorder with which myself and countless other abuse survivors children in institutions have struggled for years.
It’s not a treatment; This is torture
The troubled teen industry has been allowed to thrive without transparency or accountability for decades, raking in tens of billions of dollars while preying on vulnerable families. Private equity firms are investing more and more. Medicaid, special education, and Title IV-E funding for foster children keep pouring in.
Our tax dollars help pay more than 120,000 young people every year at these facilities, even though studies have confirmed widespread abuse and deaths.
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Fourteen years ago, members of Congress heard testimony from federal investigators who found that “staff tied and chained young people to poles in public places, and girls were made to eat their own vomit if they vomited while exercising in the hot sun. Staff regularly broke and locked the jaws of young people who were disrespectful in another facility. … Young people were sexually assaulted and threatened with sexual assault by others young people in some establishments, all without effective management intervention.
Anyone can recognize that it is not a treatment; This is torture.
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Institutional abuse survivors are on Capitol Hill this week to continue to brief lawmakers on how children placed in the troubled teen industry are being treated. We will continue to raise our voices to rally national support in this important election year to urge Congress to finally end institutional child abuse.
We must all make it clear that Americans expect bipartisan leadership and cooperation to immediately address this tragically neglected children’s human rights crisis. Further inaction is inexcusable.
Paris Hilton is an entrepreneur, model, singer, actress, DJ, and survivor of institutional abuse.