Paris Hilton has become an advocate for ending abusive residential treatment centers for teens.
In a new essay, she described being taken from her bed by strangers to a treatment facility.
The then-teenager thought she’d be killed or raped by the men who took her to the cult-like center.
“I’m about to be raped. I’m about to be murdered,” Paris Hilton recalls thinking, as she was jolted awake as a teenager by a pair of men who then would take her from her home in handcuffs.
In a new essay for The Times of London, the hotel heiress recalled in detail being taken from her bed in the middle of the night and transported to one of a series of residential treatment centers where she lived as a teen, and where she says she faced physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
Her parents, who she said watched from their doorway as she cried for help, had called the men to take her to therapy for her “wild child” antics.
“One man clamped a sweaty palm over my mouth, wrenching my head back,” Hilton wrote. “The other held up a pair of handcuffs.”
Representatives for Hilton did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Hilton, who has in recent years become an advocate to end abusive therapeutic boarding schools for teens, said she was then taken to a school run by CEDU Educational Services, transferred to a wilderness program, and eventually sent to Provo Canyon School in Utah — where other celebrities, including Kat Von D, say they were kidnapped and forced to attend.
Mel Wasserman, who founded CEDU Educational Services, Inc., died in 2002. The CEDU therapeutic schools and treatment facilities stopped operating in 2005, after numerous allegations of abuse. Representatives for Provo Canyon School did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Cavity searches and forced snuggling
At the CEDU school, Hilton wrote that she was subjected to an invasive cavity search and hours of screaming abuse by staff and other patients, as well as forced to cuddle with the people who had abused her in a giant, forced snuggle puddle called “smooshing,” which she was told was part of the therapeutic program.
She tried to run away multiple times but was ultimately caught. She said the CEDU staff used her escape attempts against her “especially the moment I kangaroo-kicked the door into the transporter’s face – to convince my parents that I was on a dangerous downward spiral,” so she was sent to a more restrictive mountain wilderness program.
“I mean, think about it: On the advice of a mental health professional, you send your struggling kid to this beautiful boarding school that costs a fortune,” Hilton wrote. “When the kid tries to run away, do you believe the kid who’s been royally pissing you off? Or do you believe the psychiatrist who says the kid is a crazy, incorrigible liar?”
The teenager was later transferred to Provo Canyon School, where she said staff “got off on the power they had” over patients.
“They took us to the infirmary and made us lie on the table,” Hilton wrote. “Made us open our legs for their stubby fingers. If we resisted, there was always a tray with syringes. I don’t know what was in the ‘booty juice,’ but I saw kids hit the floor the moment it was injected.”
Treatment centers compared to juvenile detention
678 facilities identified themselves as residential treatment centers (RTCs) as of 2016, according to 2019 statistics by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Hilton, now married with a child, has become an outspoken advocate of ending abusive RTC practices for teenagers.
“There appears to be a general acceptance that the youth being sent to RTCs present increasingly intense and severe behavioral and emotional problems, academic problems, and substance use problems,” a 2019 OJJDP report found. “However, there is almost no research on the best target population for this type of facility and treatment.”
The OJJDP report added that, in a study of 693 licensed and/or accredited child and adolescent RTCs in the United States, 82% of the facilities reported using seclusion or restraint in the prior year.
And, while the OJJDP said mental health and substance abuse professionals called for clearer admission criteria to prevent “incarcerating youth in inappropriate settings,” the department found children incarcerated in juvenile detention facilities may be more likely to receive meaningful mental health help.
Representatives from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
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