By SOPHIA EPPOLITO Associated Press/Report for America
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Paris Hilton testified about abuse she says she suffered years ago at a boarding school in Utah, as she lobbied Monday for a bill seeking to regulate the state’s troubled teen industry.
Hilton was sent to Provo Canyon School for 11 months at age 17 where she says she was abused mentally and physically, recalling 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. The socialite and reality TV star also spoke about the abuse in a documentary titled “This is Paris” that was released this fall.
Hilton testified at a state Senate committee hearing at the Utah Capitol in favor of the bill that would require more government oversight of youth residential treatment centers and require them to document when they use restraints. The measure passed unanimously following emotional testimony from Hilton and several other survivors.
“Talking about something so personal was and is still terrifying,” Hilton told the committee. “But I can not 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.”
The 39-year-old Hilton said the treatment was so “traumatizing” that she has suffered nightmares and insomnia for years.
The Provo institution is now under new ownership and the administration has said it can’t comment on anything that came before the change, including Hilton’s time there. A statement on the school website says the previous owners sold the school in 2000.
Since the documentary was released, other celebrities have spoken out about their experiences at the school or others like it, including Michael Jackson’s daughter Paris Jackson and tattoo artist Kat Von D.
During her testimony, Hilton called on President Joe Biden and leaders in Congress to take action and said she intends to pursue federal legislation.
“This is just the first step,” Hilton told reporters. “This bill is going to definitely help a lot of children but there’s obviously more work to do, and I’m not going to stop until change happens.”
Eppolito is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.