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Paris Hilton says she was abused while at Utah facility for ‘troubled teens’

Fellowship Story Showcase

Paris Hilton says she was abused while at Utah facility for ‘troubled teens’

Picture of Jessica Miller

This story was produced as part of a larger project by Jessica Miller, a participant in the 2019 Data Fellowship. It focuses on the troubled rehabilitation industry in Utah, where youth residential treatment centers are abundant but lack adequate oversight.

Also in this series:

Part 1: Inside Utah’s troubled teen industry: How it started, why kids are sent here and what happens to them

Part 2: Provo Canyon School’s history of abuse accusations spans decades, far beyond Paris Hilton

Paris Hilton creates petition to shut down Provo Canyon School

Paris Hilton leads rally against Provo Canyon School

Why we raised money to get reports on Utah’s ‘troubled teen’ treatment centers

Part 3: Utah faces criticism for its light oversight of ‘troubled teen’ treatment centers 

Part 4: Former students at Utah troubled-teen centers say their reports of sex abuse were ignored

Utah ‘troubled-teen’ centers have used ‘booty juice’ to sedate kids, a practice outlawed in other states

Utah inspectors find no problems in ‘troubled-teen’ facilities 98% of the time

Increased oversight is coming to Utah’s ‘troubled-teen’ industry

Utah ranch for ‘troubled teens’ could lose its license for subjecting kids to forced labor, ‘repetitive walking’

A girl, her hands zip tied, was forced to sit in a horse trough at a Utah ‘troubled-teen’ center

Paris Hilton, Utah lawmaker celebrate restrictions on troubled-teen centers. And promise more reforms.

How we reported this story

Utah officials want your help as they draft new rules for the ‘troubled-teen’ industry

Paris Hilton speaks at the "Untitled Paris Hilton Documentary" panel during the YouTube TCA 2020 Winter Press Tour at the Langha
Paris Hilton speaks at the "Untitled Paris Hilton Documentary" panel during the YouTube TCA 2020 Winter Press Tour at the Langham Huntington, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, in Pasadena, Calif.
(Willy Sanjuan | Invision/AP file photo)
The Salt Lake Tribune
Saturday, August 22, 2020

Paris Hilton is speaking out publicly about what she says was abuse she endured while at a “troubled teen” facility in Utah in the 1990s.

The reality star spoke about Provo Canyon School in an interview with People ahead of the release of her documentary, “This is Paris.”

“The staff would say terrible things,” she told the magazine. “They were constantly making me feel bad about myself and bully me. I think it was their goal to break us down. And they were physically abusive, hitting and strangling us. They wanted to instill fear in the kids so we’d be too scared to disobey them.”

Hilton’s parents sent her to the Utah facility in the late 1990s, when she was 17 years old and getting in trouble for sneaking out to go to clubs or parties. She spent 11 months at the facility before she left when she turned 18.

She told the magazine that she was abused by staff at the facility, and was disciplined when she tried to alert her parents about how she was being treated. She was placed in solitary confinement, she said, when staff found out she was planning to run away.

“I was having panic attacks and crying every single day,” Hilton told the magazine. “I was just so miserable. I felt like a prisoner and I hated life.”

Hilton’s experience at the Utah facility will be highlighted in her documentary, which releases Sept. 14 on her YouTube channel.

The celebrity told People that she wanted to speak out about what happened to her to bring awareness to the “troubled teen industry” and so-called behavior improvement schools.

“I want these places shut down,” Hilton told the magazine. “I want them to be held accountable. And I want to be a voice for children and now adults everywhere who have had similar experiences. I want it to stop for good and I will do whatever I can to make it happen.”

Provo Canyon School has operated in Utah since the 1970s, and has gone through a series of owners in that time.

It is currently owned by Universal Health Services, one of the nation’s largest hospital management companies based in Pennsylvania. People reported that UHS declined to comment on Hilton’s allegations, saying it could not comment about operations that happened prior to when they purchased the facility in 2000.

[This story was originally published by The Salt Lake Tribune.]