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Paris Hilton Tells of Abuse in Seeking Laws on Teen Care

New legislation would grant basic rights to young people in congregate care
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 20, 2021 4:34 PM CDT
Paris Hilton Tells of Abuse in Seeking Laws on Teen Care
Paris Hilton, flanked by Reps. Adam Schiff, left, and Ro Khanna, advocates for a bill on congregate care for teenagers Wednesday on Capitol Hill.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(Newser) – A government report in 2008 detailed the horrors of the industry that has grown up around dealing with troubled teenagers. The report listed abuse and even deaths among the young people put in the care of the boarding schools, boot camps, and other enterprises that make up the "troubled teen industry." Not much has changed since, Rolling Stone reports, with the industry allowed to operate with little accountability. On Wednesday, Paris Hilton went to Capitol Hill to put a face on the abuse that she and other survivors said they endured, in hopes of congressional action.

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"I was awakened one night by two men with handcuffs," Hilton, 40, wrote in Monday's Washington Post. "They asked if I wanted to go 'the easy way or the hard way' before carrying me from my home as I screamed for help. I had no idea why or where I was being taken against my will. I soon learned I was being sent to hell." At 17, Hilton was taken to the Provo Canyon School in Utah, the first of four such places where she was held. Her parents, she said, were taken in by the industry's misleading marketing, per USA Today. As many as 120,000 young people are in the system at a time.

While enrolled in the programs, Hilton told NBC on Wednesday, she was deprived of sleep, spied on while showering, choked, and slapped. "Every day, children are being physically, emotionally, verbally, psychologically, and sexually abused," she said. The entrepreneur and reality TV star supports legislation by Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley and Rep. Ro Khanna to combat abuse. The bill, still being developed, would guarantee young people in congregate care have the right to call their parents, not be restrained, and be provided clean drinking water and nutritional meals. There are no such guarantees now.

An advocacy group just released a report on mistreatment in congregate care, including sexual abuse. The problem is nationwide, the National Disability Rights Network said. Overuse of psychiatric medication was another finding; Hilton said she was forced to take medication without a diagnosis. Regulation now varies by state, an inconsistent system that Hilton said isn't working. Federal action is needed, she said, "to bring real reform and true accountability to congregate care." (Read more Paris Hilton stories.)

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