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Impact of Troubled Teen Industry: Paris Hilton Shines Light on Abuse in Youth Facilities

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Paris Hilton Testifies to Congress: Shining a Light on the Dark Side of the Troubled Teen Industry

Reality TV star and entrepreneur Paris Hilton testified before a U.S. congressional committee on Wednesday, recounting her harrowing experiences of abuse in residential youth treatment facilities. As an advocate for child welfare reform, Hilton’s testimony has sparked renewed scrutiny of the multi-billion dollar “troubled teen” industry.

Recounting the Trauma

Paris Hilton, known for her glamorous lifestyle and business ventures, stripped away the facade of celebrity to share a deeply personal and painful account of her teenage years. At the age of 16, she was sent to several youth residential facilities by her parents in a desperate attempt to curb her rebellious behavior. Hilton testified that she endured horrific abuse in these facilities, including being force-fed medications, sexually abused by staff members, and violently restrained and dragged down hallways.

“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 House Ways and Means Committee. Her testimony painted a chilling picture of the isolation and trauma she experienced, often without the knowledge of her parents, who she said were deceived by the facilities’ misleading marketing.

The Troubled Teen Industry: A Broken System

The troubled teen industry encompasses a wide array of facilities, including therapeutic boarding schools, military-style boot camps, juvenile justice centers, and behavior modification programs. Hilton characterized this industry as a $50 billion business that prioritizes profits over the well-being of vulnerable children. She criticized private equity firms for hiring unqualified staff to maximize profits, resulting in substandard care and unsafe conditions.

“They’re caring more about profit than the safety of children,” Hilton argued. She described some facilities as being worse than dog kennels, with deplorable conditions including mold and blood on the walls.

Legislative Action and Advocacy

Hilton has been a vocal advocate for greater oversight of youth care facilities since she first shared her story in 2021. She called on lawmakers to pass the Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act, which aims to enhance oversight and regulations of residential youth programs. She also supported the reauthorization of Title IV-B of the Social Security Act, which provides funding for child welfare issues.

“It’s really difficult to tell anyone in the outside world,” Hilton explained, noting that phone calls with parents were often monitored, preventing her from revealing the abuse she was suffering. “A lot of these kids are not believed because these places tell the parents they’re being lied to and manipulated because they want to go home.”

Support From Lawmakers

Several members of Congress expressed their support for increased federal oversight of youth care facilities. Representative Bill Pascrell, a Democrat, voiced his concern about potential fraud and the involvement of “Wall Street vultures” in child services. The committee acknowledged the urgent need for action to protect vulnerable youth.

The Provo Canyon School, one of the institutions Hilton attended, responded to her allegations by stating it was under different management during her time there and could not comment on past operations. However, they emphasized their current commitment to providing a structured environment, behavioral health therapy, and continuing education for youth with complex emotional, behavioral, and psychiatric needs.

A Personal Crusade

Hilton’s advocacy for reform is not new. In 2020, her YouTube documentary “This Is Paris” exposed the abuses she endured at Provo Canyon School and led to protests and calls for the school’s closure. As a mother of two young children, Hilton remains dedicated to addressing the needs of foster and adopted youth, urging Congress to take meaningful action.

Looking back on her experiences, Hilton said, “It has caused me severe post-traumatic stress disorder and trauma that will affect me for the rest of my life.” Her testimony serves as a poignant reminder of the need for comprehensive reform and increased oversight to ensure that no child endures the same suffering she did.

Hilton’s emotional and powerful testimony has brought national attention to the broken system of the troubled teen industry. Her call for change emphasizes the necessity for legislative action to protect the most vulnerable members of our society—our children.