Paris Hilton says she was sexually abused at a “troubled teen” boarding school

The star and several other survivors opened up about their experiences in a new report.

UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 20: Paris Hilton attends a news conference on legislation to establish a bil...
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Mental Health
Originally Published: 

Paris Hilton is many things: hotel heiress, reality TV royalty, the world’s original influencer. But underneath it all, the multi-hyphenate is a survivor.

Hilton recently spoke with the The New York Times about the sexual abuse she says she endured as a teen at the hands of male employees at Provo School Canyon in Utah. Provo is a for-profit rehab facility that’s marketed as a safe haven for teens struggling with mental illness, gender identity, behavioral issues, and eating disorders; it’s owned by United Health Services, one of the nation’s largest hospital providers.

But what Hilton and other former students claim to have experienced in the “troubled teen industry” was the polar opposite of what their legal guardians had signed them up for. Expecting a mix of specialized therapy and tough love, the former students told The Times they were instead subjected to verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.

The troubled teen industry, as it’s widely known, spans 18 states and is estimated to house 120,000-200,000 young people, according to a 2020 study published in the journal Child & Family Social Work. And, per the Coalition of Human Needs, the industry receives approximately $23 billion in public funds annually to carry out its work.

The Times interviewed over 50 former patients, experts, advocates, regulators, legislators and employees for their multimedia piece, which also included a video interview with Hilton, where she first revealed she was sexually abused.

Hilton posted the story on Twitter, tweeting: ​​”At Provo Canyon School, I was woken up in the middle of the night by male staff who ushered me into a private room and performed cervical exams on me in the middle of the night.”

“Sleep-deprived & heavily medicated, I didn’t understand what was happening,” Hilton continued. “I was forced to lie on a padded table, spread my legs & submit to cervical exams. I cried while they held me down & said, ‘No!’”

Hilton first joined forces with fellow survivors to shed light on the troubled teen industry in 2020. And just last year, the star visited the U.S. Capitol to support legislation targeting the industry.

​​“My parents were promised that tough love would fix me and that sending me across the country was the only way,” she told reporters at the time, per Vice. “I was strangled, slapped across the face, watched 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 scratch marks and smeared in blood, and so much more.”

Things seem to be moving in the right direction, thanks to high-profile support from Hilton and a bipartisan partnership between Democratic Senator from Oregon Sara Gelser and Republican Senator from Utah Mike McKell. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, this is the first time in 15 years that lawmakers will consider new regulations — such as banning sedatives and limiting use of isolation rooms — in regards to youth residential treatments.

Hilton has previously opened up about her experience at Provo, first spoke of her experience in her YouTube Originals documentary, This Is Paris, in 2020. What was supposed to be a light-hearted look at the heiress’s life quickly turned dark when Hilton candidly shared she was regularly having nightmares of getting kidnapped and taken from her bedroom — an image that mirrored her time at the Provo Canyon School. Since sharing her story, she said in her documentary, the nightmares have subsided.

Mic reached out to United Health Services for comment. While they “cannot comment on the operations or student experience prior to [their acquisition in 2000],” United Health Services maintains they are “committed to the safety of [their] students and staff.”