Paris Hilton Details Childhood Abuse In Testimony To Congress

Hilton has long been an advocate for child abuse law reform.
Image: Kevin Ostajewski

Content warning: this article discusses sexual assault, child abuse and violence and may be distressing to some readers. If you are experiencing sexual abuse or other unwanted behaviour, please contact 1800RESPECT.

Paris Hilton has opened up about the abuse she says she endured while in youth residential treatment facilities as a teen.

The former reality star appeared before the House Committee on Ways and Means on June 26, as part of a hearing focused on strengthening the child welfare system.

Detailing her experiences in the facilities, often referred to as the “troubled teen industry,” Hilton testified that she was sexually abused and force-fed medication while in “treatment.”

The 43-year-old spoke of being taken from her bed during the night when she was a teenager, with her parents organising her transfer to a boarding school after growing tired of her hard-partying. She has previously revealed that she attended several programs, the last of which was Utah’s Provo Canyon School, where she stayed for nearly a year.

“These programs promised healing, growth and support, but instead, did not allow me to speak, move freely or even look out a window for two years,” Hilton told the panel, per The Independent.

She added, “I was force-fed medications and sexually abused by the staff. I was violently restrained and dragged down hallways, stripped naked and thrown into solitary confinement.”

The heiress also testified that the programs prioritise profit over the wellbeing of children. She said, “That means that they’re trying to spend as little money as possible, and the type of employees they’re hiring are people not being checked, people that should be nowhere near children.”

Hilton was 17 at the time these alleged events took place.

Paris Hilton in court on June 26 (Image: Getty)

What Happened To Paris Hilton?

Hilton previously spoke about the abuse she alleges she suffered in her 2020 documentary, This Is Paris.

Ahead of the film’s release, Hilton told People that upon arriving at the aforementioned Provo Canyon facility, she knew it was going to “worse than anywhere else” that she had been forced to attend.

“It was supposed to be a school, but [classes] were not the focus at all,” Hilton claimed. “From the moment I woke up until I went to bed, it was all day screaming in my face, yelling at me, continuous torture.”

“The staff would say terrible things. They were constantly making me feel bad about myself and bully me. I think it was their goal to break us down. And they were physically abusive, hitting and strangling us. They wanted to instil fear in the kids so we’d be too scared to disobey them,” she added.

In the documentary, Hilton claims that when staff discovered she was planning an escape from the facility, they kept her in solitary confinement, “sometimes 20 hours a day.”

A teenaged Paris Hilton with her mother, Kathy in 1997
A teenaged Paris Hilton with her mother, Kathy in 1997 (Image: Getty)

During the June 2024 congressional hearing, Hilton testified, “All of my outside contact was completely controlled, and they would always have a staff member sitting right next to me.”

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

In 2022, she told ELLE Australia that her ‘dumb blonde’ persona from reality show The Simple Life was created as a trauma response to her time at Provo Canyon.

“I didn’t even realise until I was an adult that it was just like a whole coping mechanism,” she said. “Because it was just so traumatic to have been through it that I didn’t want to think about it. I kind of invented this fairy tale, Barbie, perfect character.”

Hilton has since dedicated her time to lobbying for child abuse law reform, in particular campaigning for the Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act. If passed, the Act would establish a federal working group on youth residential programs, which would submit recommendations on how to improve the safety and treatment of children in residential programs. “I feel like that’s my real mission in life,” she continued to ELLE. “I just want to be known as an activist and someone who brings light and kindness and sparkle to the world, because we need more of that.”

She once again called on lawmakers to pass the bill in her recent testimony.

Paris Hilton on previous a visit to the White House to discuss child abuse laws (Image: Getty)

What Has Provo Canyon School Said About Paris Hilton’s Allegations?

In the days after the release of This Is Paris, on September 17, 2020, Provo Canyon School issued a statement.

It read in part, “We do not condone or promote any form of abuse. Any and all alleged/suspected abuse is reported immediately to our state regulatory authorities, law enforcement, and Child Protective Services, as required. We are committed to providing high-quality care to youth with special, and often complex, emotional, behavioural, and psychiatric needs.”

If this article has brought up any difficult feelings please contact 1800RESPECT, or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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