Paris Hilton and DJ previously discussed abuse she endured at Utah’s Provo Canyon School
PARIS, France – Paris Hilton held a press conference on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., urging lawmakers to establish a bill of rights for children placed in congregate care facilities.
The 40 – year – old hotel heiress and reality TV personality, donned in a black pantsuit, was joined at Capitol Hill by Rep. Ro Khanna, Senator Jeff Merkley, Rep. DelLauro, Rep. Adam Schiff, other institutional abuse survivors and child welfare advocated to continue her vital message to Congress.
‘For 20 years I couldn’t sleep at night as memories of physical violence, feeling of loneliness, the loss of peers rushed through my mind when I shut my eyes. This was not just insomnia; it was trauma’, Hilton declared.
She recalled her ‘introduction’ to congregate care facilities began in her teenage years, when she was woken up by ‘two large men entering my bedroom, asking me if I wanted to go easy way or the hard way’.
‘Thinking I was being kidnapped I screamed for my parents and as I was being physically dragged out of my hose I saw them crying in the hallway. They didn’t come to my rescue that night’, Hilton said. ‘My parents were promised that though love would fix me and that sending me across the country was the only way’.
Hilton went on to share that she was sent to four facilities in a two – year period. ‘My experience at each one haunts me to this day. I was strangled, slapped across the face, locked in the shower by male staff, called vulgar names, forced to take medication without a diagnosis, not given a proper education, thrown into solitary confinement in a room covered in scrap marks and smeared in blood, and so much more’.
Hilton said she was forced to stay indoors for 11 months straight with no sunlight and no fresh air.
‘There were considered privileges. Children were regularly hit, thrown into walls and even sexually abused to Provo [Canyon School in Utah]. I wish I could tell you that what I experienced and witnessed was unique and even rare, sadly it’s not. Every day in America children in congregate care setting are being physically, emotionally and sexually abused. Children are even dying at the hands of those responsible for their care.’
Hilton also discussed the death of 16 – year -old Cornelius Frederick, whose passing at a Michigan facility was deemed a homicide. He was restrained for over 12 minutes, dying from suffocation because he threw a sandwich in the cafeteria, she said.
‘Federal law and funding care desperately needed to bring real reform and true accountability to congregate care in America’, Hilton continued. ‘The Accountability for Congregate Care Act will formally be introduced in both houses of Congress. This bill creates an urgently needed bill of rights to ensure that every child placed into congregate – care facilities is provide a safe and humane environment. This bill of rights provides protections that I wasn’t afforded like access to education, to the outdoors, freedom from abusive treatment and even the basic right to speak and move freely. If I had these rights and could have exercised them I would have been saved from over 20 years of trauma and sever PTSF.
‘Ensuring children are safe from institutional abuse isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue. It’s a basic human rights issue that requires immediate attention. On behalf of hundreds of thousands of institutional abuse survivors across America, I urge Congress and President Biden to make this bill the law of the land and give young people in congregate care the rights and protections that they so desperately need and deserve’.
Prior to Hilton’s comments, Khanna was the first to take the podium and commended the star for opening his eyes to congregate care abuse.
‘What is going on in these congregate – care facilities? Solitary confinement of young people, abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse, psychological manipulation, depriving people of basic food, depriving them of decency. This is happening in our country to our young people and if it can happen to Paris Hilton and her family, think about all those people who can’t be here today: communities of color, gender and sexually diverse communities, working – class communities, who are shuttled into these facilities, told a bunch lies about them and then are scarred for life’.
‘I didn’t know about any of this, really, until I talked to Paris,’ Khanna continued. ‘I was clueless about how much abuse is taking place. This is not messaging bill. This is a bill we need to pass. We need to pass it in the House and the Senate in a bipartisan way to have basic rights for America’s kids who get sent to these facilities so that they are treated with dignity and respect – and we will pass this’.
Merkley also took the podium, adding: ‘It boils down to this: Congregate care without oversight becomes congregate abuse. That’s what we discover all too often when we look into the system’.
Merkley thanked Hilton for sharing her story and said she will help ‘improve the lives of so many children’. ‘This is a tremendous reform and one we must get passed and we will get passed’, he said.
Two youth members also were present in Washington to share their stories. One 12 – year – old girls said she’s been in foster care for six years and has endured harm such as being put in a headlock and suffering bruises from restraints.
‘It only caused more trauma and gave me more reasons not to trust’, the young girl said.
Another survivor who works at Breaking Code Silence, a survivor – led nonprofit, said she attended Wednesday’s press conference ‘not just as myself but on behalf of thousands of individuals who have lived experiences of these facilities’.
‘I asked [survivors] what they want Congress, President Biden and the rest of the world to know. This is what they told me to tell you: These experiences of abuse are not just reserved to a few bad actors. It is systemic…It affects every state and every community. We need accountability and transparency now. We need solutions…These survivors want to you to know that lives are being destroyed right now’.
Hilton has become an advocate for youths who are placed in congregate – care facilities by either their parents or their state’s government after previously coming forward with her own story of abuse and trauma as misbehaving teen in the documentary, ‘This Is Paris.’
Minutes before the conference was held, Hilton took to her Instagram Story to share footage from the Capitol.
‘Good morning D.C., ready for a very busy and important day’, she told her millions of followers.
She was joined by her mother, Kathy Hilton, in another Instagram Story.
‘Here we are in Washington D.C., getting ready for my press conference at Capitol Hill. I will see you guys there’, Hilton added.
Hilton’s press conference follows an op – ed she panned for The Washington Post on Tuesday, in which the former ‘Simple Life’ star called on the federal government to take action against a system that she said is still running rampant.
‘When I was 16 years old, I was awakened one night by two men with handcuffs. 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’, she began. ‘I had no idea why or where I was being taken against my will. I soon learned I was being sent to hell’.
Hilton revealed she was subjected to a ‘parent – approved kidnapping’ and noted that it is a practice that countless other teens undergo in the United States. The former reality TV – star – turned businesswoman shared that she believes her wealthy parents ‘fell for the misleading marketing of the ‘troubled teen industry’ while they were searching for solutions to her ‘rebellious behavior’.