Content warning: This piece contains graphic descriptions of sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised.
Paris Hilton, world-renowned socialite and icon, previously came forward in 2020 to discuss the abuse she and others faced at Provo Canyon School, a Utah boarding school for troubled teens. In a new interview with the New York Times, she has come forward to share details of the sexual abuse she faced during her time there.
The Times' exposé on boarding schools interviewed over 50 former patients, experts, advocates, regulators, legislators and employees about the industry. Countless lawsuits and reports find that children are abused, sedated and secluded when placed under the care of these facilities. Many have died. According to the Times, the boarding school industry "enjoys little federal oversight or regulation," hence the reason why this problem has persisted.
In comes Hilton, on a path to reform the industry after dealing with it firsthand. In her 2020 YouTube documentary This Is Paris, the hotel heiress discussed the catastrophic effects the supposedly "therapeutic" boarding school had on her. She attended against her will for 11 months in 1997 when she was 17 and was released when she turned 18.
In an alarming anecdote, Hilton described being taken into a room with other female students by male staffers late at night. She then said she was digitally penetrated. "This wasn’t even a doctor,” Hilton told the Times.“It was with a couple different staff members where they would lay us on the table and put their fingers inside of us. I don’t even know what they were doing, but it was definitely not a doctor and it was really scary."
Hilton took to Twitter to expand upon her story, admitting that being sleep-deprived and heavily medicated is probably what caused her to not understand what was happening. "I was forced to lie on a padded table, spread my legs & submit to cervical exams," she tweeted. "I cried while they held me down & said, 'No!' They just said, 'Shut up. Be quiet. Stop struggling or you’ll go to Obs.'"
\u201cSleep-deprived & heavily medicated, I didn\u2019t understand what was happening. 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!" They just said, "Shut up. Be quiet. Stop struggling or you\u2019ll go to Obs."\u201d— ParisHilton (@ParisHilton) 1665499411
\u201cIt's important to open up about these painful moments so I can heal & help put an end to this abuse. Watch the @NYTimes video that shares my story & deeply disturbing information about Provo Canyon School\u2019s owners Universal Health Services. Help me #ShutDownProvo #UHSTakeAction\u201d— ParisHilton (@ParisHilton) 1665499411
Throughout the piece, various former patients describe having their communication with their families restricted, being forcefully restrained and secluded as punishment and being sedated over and over.
In 2020, Provo Canyon School released a statement in light of Hilton's claims. "Provo Canyon School was sold by its previous ownership in August 2000," it reads. "We therefore cannot comment on the operations or patient experience prior to that time." It goes on to say, "While we acknowledge there are individuals over the many years who believe they were not helped by the program, we are heartened by the many stories former residents share about how their stay was a pivot point in improving – and in many cases, saving – their lives."
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual assault, contact RAINN via chat or phone at 800-656-4673 for support and resources.
Photo courtesy of Jojo Korsh/BFA
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