Paris Hilton has called for US politicians to adopt a “bill of rights” for children in care, following the abuse she suffered as a child.
The former reality TV star revealed last year that she had been abused in youth facilities as a teenager, saying she was choked, slapped, spied on while showering, forced to take unnecessary medication, and deprived of sleep.
Speaking outside Capitol Hill on Wednesday, the 40-year-old said: “The multi-billion troubled teen industry has been able to mislead parents, school districts, child welfare agencies, and juvenile justice systems for decades.
“The reason is a system-wide lack of transparency and accountability.”
Californian Democrat Ro Khanna said he is drafting legislation that will give children in youth facilities the right to call their parents, be free of restraints, and have access to clean drinking water and nutritious meals – none of which are currently mandatory.
The facilities covered would include those for foster children and children with mental health problems, those that rely on taxpayer funding and those that are paid for by parents who seek care for their troubled teenagers.
Hilton, great-granddaughter of Conrad Hilton, the founder of Hilton Hotels, first made her name as a reality TV star but she told reporters on Wednesday: “I come here not as Paris Hilton, but as a survivor.”
She spoke about her experiences at four different care facilities over two years, saying: “My experience at each one haunts me to this day.
“For 20 years, I couldn’t sleep at night, as memories of physical violence, feelings of loneliness, the loss of peers rushed through my mind when I shut my eyes.
“This was not just insomnia – it was trauma.
“One night when I was 16 years old, I woke up to two large men in my bedroom asking if I wanted to go the easy way or the hard way.
“Thinking I was being kidnapped, I screamed for my parents. As I was being physically dragged out of my house, I saw them crying in the hallway. They didn’t come to my rescue that night.
“This was my introduction to the troubled teen industry.
“My parents were promised that tough love would fix me and that sending me across the country was the only way.”
She added: “Every day in America, children in congregate care settings are being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused. Children are even dying at the hands of those responsible for their care.
“This bill creates an urgently-needed bill of rights to ensure that every child placed in congregate facilities is provided a safe and humane environment.
“This bill 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 severe PTSD.”