Paris Hilton rallies people against Provo Canyon School

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Paris Hilton leads a protest Friday, Oct. 9, in Provo. Hilton was in Utah to lead a protest outside a boarding school where she alleges she was abused physically and mentally by staff when she was a teenager. Hilton, now 39, went public with the allegations in a new documentary and wants a school that she says left her with nightmares and insomnia for years to be shut down. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Paris Hilton joined with others on Friday at Riverview Park in Provo and rallied to shut down Provo Canyon School, one of many residential treatment facilities across the nation that former clients claim are emotionally, physically and psychologically abusive. 

Hilton, a reality television star and daughter of the Hilton Hotel founders, released a documentary titled “This is Paris” on Sept. 14. The documentary details her traumatic experiences from correctional facilities she attended in the 1990s and raises awareness for Breaking Code Silence, a movement for other survivors to share their experience. 

“It is one of the most empowering moments of my life, all of the survivors coming together and taking a stand against these abusive schools,” Hilton told The Daily Universe. 

Paris Hilton speaks at a Provo rally targeting residential treatment centers. (Kaela Cleary)

Hilton and others shared experiences and talked about the legal action moving forward. 

“I see you survivors and I want all of you to know that I’m dedicated to using my platform and my resources to this movement until I see change happen. To that end I’m giving all proceeds from my new song to Breaking Code Silence,” Hilton said at the gathering. 

The group also participated in a march past Provo Canyon School. Hilton said her goal isn’t just to shut down Provo Canyon School but to disassemble the whole industry.

In Hilton’s documentary she said she went to several treatment facilities, but Provo Canyon School was “the worst of the worst.” The abuse included solitary confinement, physical abuse, and forced intake of unknown medications. “Maybe if I stop their nightmares, it will help stop mine,” Hilton said in her documentary. 

“Just walking outside in Provo right now with hundreds of people holding signs, it’s just an incredible feeling and I know that we are going to make a change and this is going to make a huge impact and help save children’s lives,” Hilton said to The Daily Universe. 

Provo Canyon School is one of the many treatment facilities across that nation that survivors have exposed as being abusive to teens and children. 

Misha Osherovich said they suffered abuse at a different treatment center in Utah. “My parents were taken advantage of — these programs swoop in and say, ‘we’ll fix your kid.’ That’s not how you help a teenager struggling with mental health issues.”

Osherovich said it’s not just about immediately shutting these facilities down, but giving teens a voice to talk about mental health and providing parents with resources to help their kids so these “programs never come into the equation.”

Provo Canyon School is not taking interviews from the press but released a statement last month saying that the school was sold from its previous ownership in August 2000. The statement says the school is highly regulated by multiple agencies and organizations including “the Utah Department of Human Services, Office of Licensing and various state, federal and national credentialing organizations and agencies.”

The statement says the school does not accept or promote any kind of abuse, and according to their 2020 year-to-date Patient Satisfaction Survey Results, “100% of patients reported they feel better when released than when they were admitted and they were satisfied with their treatment.” 

The statement made a stance against some of the specific allegations thrown at them, “Provo Canyon School DOES NOT use ‘solitary confinement’ as a form of intervention. Licensed physicians prescribe medication as necessary to assist the patient in addressing their mental health diagnosis.”

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