SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Paris Hilton has become known for more than just her stardom in Utah in recent years. After speaking out about residential treatment centers for troubled youth locally, Hilton is taking on the national stage.
Hilton stayed at Provo Canyon School in the 1990s. In September, Hilton started a petition with allegations against Provo Canyon School. It addressed what she claims as “institutional child abuse she suffered as a teenager at Provo Canyon School (PCS), a notorious residential treatment center in Utah that still operates today,” as stated in the petition. This came after a documentary, “This is Paris,” was released on YouTube.
SLIDESHOW: Paris Hilton protesting Provo Canyon School
Last fall, Hilton took her call to action to the school’s front doors, organizing a protest in a park near Provo Canyon School. She was joined by several hundreds of others who shared stories of abuse they say they experienced in the school and similar schools for troubled youth. She stayed at Provo for 11 months and says while there, she was abused mentally and physically, claiming staff would beat her, force her to take unknown pills, watch her shower and send her to solitary confinement without clothes as punishment.
The Provo Canyon School is now under new ownership and the administration told ABC4 they cannot comment on anything that happened before them. In February, Hilton testified for Utah Senate Bill 127, which modifies provisions related to human services programs in Utah. Then in April, Hilton joined ABC4 for an exclusive discussion with Utah lawmakers about congregate care reform and using your voice to create policy change.
Hilton is now using her voice on a national platform. Wednesday, Hilton participated in a news conference on Capitol Hill to discuss legislation around congregate care facilities. As ABC News report, Hilton is working with Breaking Code Silence, a non-profit dedicated to increasing awareness of congregate care facilities to enact change. They are pushing for the Accountability for Congregate Care Act to pass. According to ABC News, the act would create accountability requirements for facilities like Provo Canyon.
Hilton joined ‘Good Morning America’ on Wednesday to discuss her time at Provo Canyon.
“While you’re in there, you are just basically trained to not say anything. So I think when kids get out of there, they just don’t wanna talk about it,” she tells GMA. “They don’t want anyone even knowing, just like myself.”
Hilton, now 40, was 17 when she was sent to Provo Canyon School. She says she experienced 20 years of trauma and severe PTSD from her time there. Hilton also visited with Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) while at the nation’s capital.
“Paris Hilton has made substantial efforts on reforming Utah’s residential treatment centers for troubled teens—I’m grateful she’s now advocating at the federal level,” Senator Romney says in a Thursday Twitter post, seen above.
“Turning pain into purpose is such a real thing,” Hilton tells GMA. “I just know that the little girl in me would be so proud of the woman I am today.”