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Jen Rovero Paris Hilton
Paris Hilton is speaking out about abuse she alleges she endured at a Utah boarding school.
Hilton, 39, appeared in a Utah court on Monday to testify against Provo Canyon School — the boarding school whose staff members she has accused of inflicting emotional, physical and psychological abuse on her during her stay as a teenager.
"My name is Paris Hilton, I am an institutional abuse survivor and I speak today on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of children currently in residential care facilities across the United States," she said in her testimony to the Utah Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee. "For the past 20 years, I have had a recurring nightmare where I'm kidnapped in the middle of the night by two strangers, strip-searched, and locked in a facility. I wish I could tell you that this haunting nightmare was just a dream, but it is not."
Hilton then recounted her allegations against Provo Canyon School, saying, "I was verbally, mentally and physically abused on a daily basis. I was cut off from the outside world and stripped of all my human rights."
Jen Rovero Paris Hilton
"Without a diagnosis, I was forced to consume medication that made me feel numb and exhausted. I didn't breathe fresh air or see the sunlight for 11 months. There was zero privacy — every time I would use the bathroom or take a shower — it was monitored," she alleged. "At 16 years old — as a child — I felt their piercing eyes staring at my naked body. I was just a kid and felt violated every single day."
Hilton said she believes the alleged abuse at the school continued for years after she left, saying changes only started to be made after she publicly spoke out in her documentary earlier this year.
"I tell my story not so that anyone feels bad for me, but to shine a light on the reality of what happened then and is still happening NOW," she said. "The people who work at, run, and fund these programs should be ashamed of themselves. How can people live with themselves knowing this abuse is happening?"
Hilton then urged for schools such as Provo Canyon to be monitored more closely.
"I'm going to be honest," she said. "Talking about something so personal was and is still terrifying. And I cannot go to sleep at night knowing that there are children that are enduring the same abuse that I and so many others went through. Neither should you. I am proof that money doesn't protect against abuse."
The entrepreneur previously made her allegations against the school in the YouTube Originals documentary This Is Paris that premiered in September. The school is now under different ownership.
Since then, Hilton has been advocating to shut down the Utah boarding school and other institutions whose staff members allegedly abuse minors.
Hilton's testimony was one of three heard Monday in support of a bill brought by State Sen. Michael McKell calling for reform to the state's laws surrounding similar institutions. McKell was inspired to work with Hilton after she held a rally at Provo Canyon in October.
"I buried my truth for so long," Hilton told PEOPLE exclusively in August 2020 of why she came forward 20 years after her stay at the institution. "But I'm proud of the strong woman I've become. People might assume everything in my life came easy to me, but I want to show the world who I truly am."
The socialite was sent to the boarding school by her parents for 11 months in an attempt to tame her rebellious partying.
"It was supposed to be a school, but [classes] were not the focus at all," she said.
"From the moment I woke up until I went to bed, it was all day screaming in my face, yelling at me, continuous torture," Hilton alleged. "The staff would say terrible things. 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."
Many of Hilton's former Provo Canyon School classmates also appeared in her YouTube documentary and shared their stories of alleged abuse.
When reached by PEOPLE for comment on the allegations at the time, the school responded: "Originally opened in 1971, Provo Canyon School was sold by its previous ownership in August 2000. We therefore cannot comment on the operations or patient experience prior to this time."
In a second and more lengthy statement issued on Sept. 17, after the release of the documentary, the school said staff does not use "'solitary confinement' as a form of intervention" or prescribe "any drug or medication as a means of discipline."
"We do not condone or promote any form of abuse," the statement continued. "Any and all alleged/suspected abuse is reported immediately to our state regulatory authorities, law enforcement and Child Protective Services, as required. We are committed to providing high-quality care to youth with special, and often complex, emotional, behavioral and psychiatric needs."
If you suspect child abuse, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to www.childhelp.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.