Renowned entrepreneur and socialite Paris Hilton appeared alongside lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to urge reform of youth care facilities in the United States.
Hilton is looking to reshuffle the so-called “struggling teen industry” where she and countless others say they have experienced trauma and abuse.
Hilton, 40, has become an advocate for residential reform after being sent to such a facility as a teenager, where she says she suffered physical and mental abuse.
“I was strangled, slapped in the face, watched in the shower by male staff, called vulgar names, forced to take medication without diagnosis, without proper education, thrown into solitary confinement in a scratched room and smeared with blood and more, ”recalls Hilton.
“At Provo Canyon School in Utah, I was given clothes with a number on the tag,” she continued. “I was no longer me, I was only No. 127. I was forced to stay indoors for 11 straight months, with no sun, no fresh air. It was considered privilege. . “
“I was woken up one night by two men in handcuffs,” she wrote of her experience in a Washington Post Editorial published Monday. “They asked me if I wanted to go ‘the easy way or the hard way’ before carrying me out of my house as I screamed for help. I had no idea why or where I was being taken against my will. I quickly learned that I was sent to hell.
“I wish I could tell you that what I experienced or saw was unique or even rare, but unfortunately it is not,” Hilton said on Wednesday, surrounded by representatives Ro Khanna, D-Calif., And of Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. , who co-sponsor the Accountability for Congregate Care Act. Representatives Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., And Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Also joined in expressing their support for the bill.
“Every day in the United States, children in collective care facilities experience physical, emotional and sexual abuse,” Hilton said Wednesday.
“Ensuring that children are safe from institutional abuse is not a Republican or Democratic issue,” she added. “It is a fundamental human rights issue that requires immediate attention.
The collective care liability law aims to end the abuse in what lawmakers and survivors say has grown into a multibillion-dollar treatment industry.
“It creates a commission with the Department of Justice to be able to do research, demand reports, collate data, establish best practices and put in place a system of oversight and accountability and it provides grants to states to be able to implement these improvement measures, ”Merkley told reporters on Wednesday.
“An estimated 120,000 young people are housed in collective care facilities at any time across the country, many of them placed through child protection and juvenile justice systems,” wrote Hilton in the Post op-ed. “But there is little oversight. State inspections are generally minimal and there is no federal or other organized placement of data tracking, critical incident reporting or quality of care monitoring. . “
Among other things, the Collective Care Accountability Act would set standards for collective care facilities dealing with adolescents, establish a commission to develop best practices to protect children, and establish systems for reporting abuse.
“I am confident that this bill will create a world where all young people have the support and opportunities they need to heal, thrive and not just survive,” said Hilton.
Hilton was joined on Wednesday by others who say they suffered abuse in collective care facilities for young people.
These survivors included Caroline Cole, a 31-year-old Californian. On Wednesday, she said her experience at a reform school in New York City led to post-traumatic stress disorder – and later, homelessness and substance abuse.
Now Cole is the Director of Government Relations to Break the Silence of the Code, a non-profit organization that seeks to end abuse at these facilities and empower survivors to heal and promote social change.
“Physical restraint, solitary confinement, psychological abuse, staff, pitting a child against a child and, and being confined in a way that can only really be compared to incarceration,” Cole said Wednesday. about his experience at the New York establishment.
“What reform means to me is that we can create a world in a society where we have policies and systems that support young people, instead of pathologizing them for typical adolescent experiences,” a- she added.
In her Washington Post editorial, Hilton called on President Biden and members of Congress to enact a basic federal “bill of rights” for youth in collective care. “
“Every child appointed by Congress to take action regarding collective youth care facilities by providing funds and requiring states to move into such facilities should have the right to a safe and humane environment free from threats and practices of solitary confinement and physical or chemical restraint at will. staff, ”Hilton wrote.
“If such rights had existed and had been enforced, I and countless other survivors could have been spared the abuse and trauma that haunted us into adulthood,” she added.