Reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday buzzed over the sightings in Senate hallways of Paris Hilton, the reality star who met with lawmakers to advocate for protections for youth in congregate care facilities.
At a press conference just outside the Capitol, Hilton said, “Today I come here not as Paris, but as a survivor.”
“For 20 years I couldn’t sleep at night, as memories of physical violence, feeling of loneliness, the loss of years rushed through my mind when I shut my eyes.”
“This was not just insomnia. It was trauma,” she said.
Hilton said that when she was a teenager, “I woke up to two large men in my bedroom,” asking her if she “wanted to go the easy way or the hard way.”
She said that she thought she was being kidnapped, but she was physically dragged out of her house and being sent to a residential care facility, what she called “the troubled teen industry.”
“I was sent to four facilities over a two-year period, and my experience at each one haunts me to this day,” she said, adding that she was strangled, slapped across her face and subject to other forms of abuse. She also said that she was forced to take medication without a diagnosis and thrown into solitary confinement. She said that at Provo Canyon School in Utah, she was forced to stay indoors for 11 months straight.
“Every day in America, children in congregate care facilities are being physically, sexually and emotionally abused,” she said, blaming it on a “systemwide lack of transparency and accountability.”
Hilton appeared at the press conference with lawmakers including Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), who are advocating for legislation to reform congregate care facilities. They are among those who plan to introduce the Accountability for Congregate Care Act which would establish a bill of rights with protections for children in such facilities.
Hilton also wrote about her experiences in an essay for The Washington Post.
“Ensuring that children, including at-risk children, are safe from institutional abuse, neglect and coercion isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue — it’s a basic human rights issue that requires immediate action,” she wrote.