US socialite Paris Hilton has spoken about her harsh childhood experiences of facing sexual and emotional abuse at youth care facilities.

American socialite Paris Hilton put the spotlight back on the trauma of teenage sexual abuse. The world-famous hotel heiress called for better protection for children in youth facilities, at a US House of Representatives committee hearing, as she recounted her own physical and emotional abuse experiences as a teenager.

Paris Hilton recounts sexual abuse experience

The 43-year-old great-granddaughter of Conrad Hilton, founder of Hilton Hotels, delivered a moving and powerful testimony in a bid to convince the committee to focus on improving the lives of children in foster care.

“I was force-fed medications and sexually abused by the staff. I was violently restrained and dragged down hallways, stripped naked and thrown into solitary confinement,” Hilton said as she spoke about the grim reality of the US foster care system, often referred to as the ‘troubled teen industry’.

“This $23 billion-a-year industry sees this population as dollar signs and operates without meaningful oversight,” Hilton further said in reference to children whose parents could either not support them or had deceased, as well as those with childhood trauma. “What is more important: Protesting business profits or protecting foster youth lives?” she asked the committee at the Capitol Hall.

Paris Hilton sexual abuse
Paris Hilton has opened up about her sexual abuse experience through her documentary, memoir and multiple appearances at the House of Committee. Image courtesy: Instagram | Paris Hilton

Paris Hilton was sent to youth care facilities for ‘rebellious behaviour’

This isn’t the first time the now mother of two has raised her concern. In 2020, her documentary “This Is Paris”, also delved into these unsavoury moments of her life. Hilton also opened about her near-traumatic tryst in an opinion piece she wrote for The Washington Post in 2021. She had described how she was forcibly taken to a youth facility, in what she called a “parent-approved kidnapping”, when she was all of 16 years old.

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“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… Like countless other parents of teens, my parents had searched for solutions to my rebellious behavior,” she wrote.

Hilton was sent to four different facilities during her teens. “I endured physical and psychological abuse by staff: I was choked, slapped across the face, spied on while showering and deprived of sleep. I was called vulgar names and forced to take medication without a diagnosis. At one Utah facility, I was locked in solitary confinement in a room where the walls were covered in scratch marks and blood stains,” she wrote in the Washington Post piece.

She admitted that her parents – Richard Hilton and Kathy Hilton – were themselves victims of the “misleading marketing of the “troubled teen industry”. And so, she has since been an outspoken advocate of safer therapeutic boarding schools, military-style boot camps, juvenile justice facilities, behaviour modification programs and other facilities.

In a series of Instagram posts written after delivering her latest testimony on child welfare, Paris Hilton wrote: “I will continue to turn my pain into a purpose to make a difference in children’s lives.”

“If you are a child in the system – hear my words – I see you, I believe you, I know what you’re going through and I’m not giving up on you. You are important, your future is important, and you deserve every opportunity to be safe and supported. #SlivingForACause #StopInstitutionalChildAbuseAct,” she added.

Listen to Paris Hilton’s testimony here!

Over the years, celebrities the world over have bravely opened up about being sexually abused, normalising talking about these experiences instead of feeling self-shame or a sense of victimhood.

Sex and trauma therapist Neha Bhat tells Health Shots, “Sexual abuse is often hush-hush and extremely stigmatised as it tends to rock the boat – of families, couples, friends circles and workplaces. When celebrities with immense influence model speaking up and not keeping it a secret, it demonstrates that opening up about it, however difficult, is the right pathway forward. It encourages families, friends and workplaces to embrace difficult conversations and sometimes difficult decisions around sexual abuse.”

Impact of childhood trauma on mental health

Any form of trauma experienced during childhood years can have a huge impact on a person’s mental health as an adult. As per ResearchGate, childhood trauma is an event experienced by a child that evokes fear and is commonly violent, dangerous, or life-threatening. It is also sometimes referred to as adverse childhood experiences or ACEs. According to the European Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, childhood trauma survivors may exhibit any one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Alcohol and drug dependency issues
  • Deny negative impact on wellness
  • Creating a false self-image
  • Develop low self-esteem, depression and anxiety
  • Suffer a sense of inadequacy
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