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A woman has alleged she was sexually assaulted at a rural ranch in Utah after appearing on the long-running TV show "Dr. Phil." She is now suing Phil McGraw, commonly known as Dr. Phil, and Viacom CBS for negligence, saying she felt pressured to attend the facility after appearing on the show.
The faculty where the alleged assault took place is called Turn-About ranch, which is located in the rural town of Escalante, Utah. The lawsuit was filed in the Los Angeles County Court and in the suit, Hannah Archuleta alleges after she appeared on “Dr. Phil” in October 2019 — she was 17 at the time — McGraw and his staff pressured her to attend the ranch to “have any chance at a good life,” according to a lawsuit obtained by the Los Angeles Times and The Wrap.
Archuleta says her family was pressured to force her to go to the ranch where the alleged assault took place. In the lawsuit, Archuleta says that within weeks of her arrival she was groped twice by an unnamed male staffer.
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In the lawsuit, Archuleta says McGraw made “unqualified, positive representations” about Turn-About Ranch, which is a working cattle ranch that bills itself as a “special place that provides a unique set of services to struggling young people,” according to the ranch’s director’s message.
The ranch also boasts on its website that it’s recommended by doctors and therapists and “frequently” featured in the media due to its acclaimed programs.
Archuleta’s lawsuit also noted McGraw is not licensed to practice psychology although he does hold a doctorate in clinical psychology.
After these incidents, Archuleta told her father Tony about the sexual assault and he came from Colorado to the southern Utah ranch to pull her from the program and filed a complaint with the Garfield County Sheriff’s Department, according to the suit. The lawsuit says that the Archuletas reached out to McGraw’s team after Hannah was suffering from suicidal thoughts due to her time at the ranch.
McGraw hasn’t publicly commented on the matter but a spokesperson for him, Jerry Sharell released the following statement.
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“After Hannah Archuleta’s appearance on ‘Dr. Phil’ in 2019, her parents chose to seek treatment at Turn-About Ranch. None of the defendants in this case had anything to do with her program at that facility, as documents signed by the Archuleta's reflect. We understand that she subsequently sued Turn-About Ranch but that case was dismissed and recently refiled. This case will be vigorously contested.”
This is just the latest case in dealing with Utah’s controversial troubled teen industry, which has garnered intense media scrutiny since Paris Hilton came forward in 2020 saying she was abused during the 1990s at a similar troubled teen facility in Provo, Utah. Provo is roughly 265 miles north of Escalante.
This past week, Hilton and the nonprofit Breaking Code Silence, an advocacy group led by former treatment center residents, had a press conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. advocating for stronger laws to regulate the troubled teen Industry.
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“The multibillion-dollar troubled teen industry has been able to mislead parents, school districts, child welfare agencies and juvenile justice systems for decades,” said Hilton.
The Breaking Code Silence group and Hilton are trying to further change laws around the troubled teen industry after they participated in getting Utah to change its state laws to add additional regulations to the industry in April of this year.
Sean Hemmersmeier covers local government, growth and development in Southwestern Utah. Follow him on Twitter @seanhemmers34. Our work depends on subscribers so if you want more coverage on these issues you can subscribe here: http://www.thespectrum.com/subscribe.
This article originally appeared on St. George Spectrum & Daily News: Dr. Phil sued as teen alleges sexual assault at Utah ranch he promoted