Why Paris Hilton is #BreakingCodeSilence

Explaining the movement to expose the Troubled Teen Industry

Paris Hilton is supporting the movement against this damaging industry.

Back in September of 2020, Paris Hilton’s YouTube documentary, This is Paris, gave viewers an inside look at what life is really like for the Hilton heiress. The documentary focused mainly on her movement to speak out against the Troubled Teen Industry, using her platform to bring more awareness to the abuse that happens within the institutions that make up the industry.

The Troubled Teen Industry is a for-profit industry in which institutions are paid by parents or guardians to put their teenage children through a boot camp-style program for a number of months. Each programs can look different: some are marketed as outdoor wilderness retreats where adolescents spend months hiking through the woods; others resemble a boarding school where students are to remain on the campus until ‘graduation,’ sometimes unable to leave for years on end.

The #BreakingCodeSilence movement didn’t begin with Paris Hilton. #BreakingCodeSilence first began in 2013 to encourage former victims of the Troubled Teen Industry to speak out about the abuse they experienced within these programs. The #BreakingCodeSilence website hosts hundreds of testimonials from survivors who have been through abusive programs within the Troubled Teen Industry.

‘Code Silence’ refers to a common punishment used within the Troubled Teen Industry, designed to control children using forced silence. Institutions use punishments like this in order to take away the voices of the minors in their care.

Former victims of the Troubled Teen Industry are now breaking that silence, exposing the emotional and physical abuse that’s all too common within the industry.

Paris Hilton was part of one of these programs as a teenager, attending Provo Canyon School for 11 months in 1999 prior to her eighteenth birthday. Provo Canyon School is in Utah, a state that is home to about 100 similar programs for adolescents. From 2015-2020, over 12,000 teens were sent to Utah to complete one of these programs. Parents pay at least $30,000 for their children to be sent away.

Institutions that run Troubled Teen Programs boast a “structured environment” for young people whose parents have been “unsuccessful” at reining in their unruly behaviour. Parents will send their children to these programs for any reason they see fit, from drug and alcohol abuse to excessive partying. Sometimes called “emotional growth schools,” parents are made to believe that these programs will take away bad influences and provide their children with a healthy environment to grow in. In most circumstances, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Hilton was sent to Troubled Teen Programs by her parents because she had been sneaking out to clubs since the age of 15. Hilton’s parents, worried about how her behaviour would impact their family’s reputation, decided it would be best to send her to one of these institutions. Like many other parents, they watched as ‘transporters’ took her from her bed in the middle of the night and took her to Provo Canyon School. This is common practice within the industry, designed to catch teens off-guard. 

Upon arrival, teens are faced with punishment after punishment, designed to “break” them into docility. Hilton recalled being forced to sit in a chair and watch the wall all day long while being hit or screamed at, as well as being given heavy medications that left her feeling “tired and numb.” Hilton, like the hundreds of others who have taken part in the #BreakingCodeSilence movement, described the whole ordeal as a nightmare she couldn’t wake up from.

The goal of #BreakingCodeSilence is ultimately to bring permanent change to the Troubled Teen Industry and shut down programs that continue to abuse kids and teenagers.

Even more, #BreakingCodeSilence is about healing for the thousands of people who are put through these abuses each year. According to Paris Hilton, it’s the “best feeling in the world” to know that her voice has the ability to save children from the torture she went through in her own youth.

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