US media personality and socialite Paris Hilton called on President Joe Biden and US Congress to take on the “troubled teen industry” at a news conference on Wednesday.
Hilton is working with Breaking Code Silence, a non-profit advocating change against institutional child abuse.
The entrepreneur appeared alongside other teen survivors to announce the Accountability for Congregate Care Act.
In a documentary released last year, the former reality TV star revealed she was abused at a psychiatric youth treatment centre as a teenager, saying she was beaten, forced to spend time in solitary confinement and given prescription drugs.
“For 20 years, I couldn’t sleep at night as memories of physical violence, the feeling of loneliness, the loss of peers rushed through my mind when I shut my eyes,” Hilton said outside Capitol Hill.
“This was not just insomnia. This was trauma.”
Hilton said she suffered abuse at all four youth centres she was placed in, an experience that left her with “severe PTSD".
A lack of transparency and accountability by the “troubled teen industry” has allowed congregate care centres to mislead not only parents, but also school districts and child welfare agencies.
“I wish I could tell you what I experienced or witnessed was unique or even rare, but sadly it’s not,” she said. “Every day in America, children in congregate care settings are being physically, emotionally and sexually abused.”
The legislation would give children in youth centres the right to call their parents, have access to clean drinking water as well as nutritious meals, which is currently not mandatory.
“I am confident that this bill will create a world where all youths have the support and opportunity they need to heal, thrive and not just survive,” Hilton said.
“This bill provides rights that I was never afforded.”
Centres covered in the bill would include those for children in foster care as well as those who have mental health problems, those relying on public funding and those place there by parents seeking care for their troubled teenagers.
It would also create a bill of rights for the children and act as an oversight for the industry.
Hilton called on Mr Biden and members on both sides of the aisle in Congress to act.
“Ensuring children are safe from institutional abuse isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue,” she said.
“It’s a basic human rights issue that requires immediate attention.”