An Australian woman has opened up about the horror she faced at a US boarding school after being woken in the middle of the night, forced onto a plane and sent there when she was just 15.
Emily, now 25, was deemed a ‘troubled teen’ by her parents following their bitter divorce – and when her grades started to slip she was sent from Sydney to a controversial care facility in the US which uses ‘tough love’ to discipline teens.
Reality TV star Paris Hilton was also sent a therapeutic boarding school as a teen in the 1990s aged 16 and claims she was sexually abused during her time there.
Reality TV star Paris Hilton was sent a therapeutic boarding school as a teen in the 1990s aged 16 and claims she was sexually abused during her time there
‘Around three in the morning two burley strangers switched on my bedside lamp and that’s when I was presented with the option – the easy way or the hard way,’ Emily told 60 Minutes on Sunday.
Hilton, 41, told the program she experienced an identical situation with ‘transport agents’ holding up handcuffs and asking her the same question.
Emily was first taken to a Utah wilderness facility for 10 weeks before being shipped off a remote camp in Montana which she describes as ‘hell on earth’.
She claims the children there were physiologically bullied by staff and given extreme punishments if they made even the slightest indiscretions.
‘If you even looked at someone the wrong way you were forced to dig up tree stumps,’ she said.
The Australian woman’s testimony comes after Hilton last month claimed she was sexually abused and forced to undergo cervical exams performed by staff members in the early hours of the morning after she too was sent to a Utah boarding school for troubled teens in the 1990s.
The multimillionaire heiress said her childhood was ‘stolen’ by the alleged abuse at Provo Canyon School where she spent 11 months when she was 17 years old.
Emily said food was taken away and you were not allowed to talk to anyone for months at a time.
‘The worst of my experience was the headmaster of the school telling me that I would amount to nothing because I was a wayward youth and that I wasn’t worth the college education fee.’
Emily, now 25 (pictured), was deemed a ‘troubled teen’ by her parents following their bitter divorce – and when her grades started to slip she was sent from Sydney to a controversial care facility in the US which uses ‘tough love’ to discipline teens
Teens were also subject to bizarre and traumatic ‘attack therapies’ where they were forced to scream at each and re-enact childhood abuse.
‘It was a snowball effect, so one kid would start yelling at another kid, and more kids would join in, and these were torture for me, to have a group of 15 of your peers yelling at you, and what would make matters worse was this rile-up gang mentality would go farther than the walls of that room,’ Emily said.
‘This was encouraged by the school.’
Despite not having any history of crime, drug abuse or mental health issues, Emily spend two years at the facility – which she says did not help her one bit.
The extent of Emily’s bad behaviour in her youth stemmed from her parent’s bitter break-up.
‘I snuck my phone into my room late at night,’ she said.
Emily was first taken to a Utah wilderness facility for ten weeks before being shipped off a remote facility in Montana which she describes as ‘hell on earth’ (pictured)
‘I dated a boy who was 17 when I was 15 and I think I just had a bit of an attitude in general from the tumultuous childhood.
‘I will always have in the back of my mind, am I the problem?’ Emily said. ‘Am I still a bad kid? Am I inherently evil?’
She rejects any claims the billion-dollar therapeutic residence industry is merely about ‘tough love’.
‘Characterising what we went through as discipline is not only gaslighting by it’s grossly unfair,’ Emily said.
Now studying law, and with the horror experience behind her she added: ‘I will always take great satisfaction in proving that lady (her headmaster) wrong.’
Hilton, 41 (pictured), said she experienced an identical situation with ‘transport agents’ holding up handcuffs and asking her the same question
Speaking to the New York Times, Ms Hilton – who has campaigned to regulate ‘troubled teen centers’ since initially going public in 2020 with alleged physical and mental abuse incidents at the school in 2020 – said she had tried to ‘black out’ the reported incidents.
She said: ‘Very late at night – this would be around three or four in the morning – they would take myself and other girls into this room, and they would perform medical exams.
‘This wasn’t even with a doctor. It was with a couple different staff members, where they would have us lay on the table and put their fingers inside of us. And I don’t know what they were doing, but it was definitely not a doctor and it was really scary
‘It was really scary, and it’s something that I really had blocked out for many years. But it’s coming back all the time now, and I think about it. And now, looking back as an adult, that was definitely sexual abuse.’
Devastating: Paris Hilton has detailed alleged sexual abuse she endured while attending a Utah boarding school for troubled teens in the 1990s
Tragic: The reality star, 41, said her childhood was ‘stolen’ by the alleged abuse at Provo Canyon School where she spent 11 months aged 17 (pictured aged 18l)
Paris further detailed the alleged incidents on Twitter, writing: ‘Sleep-deprived & heavily medicated, I didn’t understand what was happening.
‘I was forced to lie on a padded table, spread my legs & submit to cervical exams. I cried while they held me down & said,”No!” They just said, “Shut up. Be quiet. Stop struggling or you’ll go to Obs.”‘
‘It’s important to open up about these painful moments so I can heal & help put an end to this abuse.
Campaign: Paris has campaigned for the school’s closure since 2020
‘This was a recurring experience not only for me but for other #survivors. I was violated & I am crying as I type this because no one, especially a child, should be sexually abused. My childhood was stolen from me & it kills me this is still happening to other innocent children.’
She tweeted Universal Health Services, who purchased Provo Canyon School in 2000, the year after her alleged abuse, urging them to shut down the center.
She wrote: ‘Stop prioritizing profit over people @UHS_Inc. I demand you take immediate action starting by shutting down Provo Canyon School by April 1st, 2023.
‘“END CHILD ABUSE AT UHS” or retweet if you agree. #ShutDownPCS #UHSTakeAction #EndChildAbuse
Paris appeared alongside other young people who had been sent to similar centers as teenagers, in a series titled: ‘Can You Punish A Child’s Mental Health Problems Away?
DailyMail.com has contacted representatives for the school for comment.
The teen treatment center, where a 12-month stay costs up to $300,000, has faced previous accusations of beating, drugging and sexually abusing its clients.
The socialite first slammed the institution in her 2020 documentary This Is Paris and succeeded in pushing for new, tighter regulation on schools for troubled teens.
Testifying to Utah lawmakers in February 2021, the hotel heiress said she was ‘verbally, mentally and physically abused on a daily basis’ at Provo Canyon.
Twitter: The star gave further details of the alleged abuse in a Twitter thread
‘I was cut off from the outside world and stripped of all of my human rights. I was not allowed to be myself, hold my own opinions or even speak. 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,’ she said.
‘Children were restrained, hit, thrown into walls, strangled and sexually abused regularly at Provo… I could not report this because all communication with my family was monitored and censored.
‘That was the worst of the worst… There’s no getting out of there. You’re sitting on a chair and staring at a wall all day long, getting yelled at or getting hit.’
The socialite slammed the institution in her 2020 documentary This Is Paris and succeeded in pushing for new, tighter regulation on schools for troubled teens.
The Times claims Universal Health Services still faces numerous lawsuits, with one suit – in which 49 plaintiffs are named – more than two dozen people have claimed to have been sexually abused by a former medical director.
The teen treatment center, where a 12-month stay costs up to $300,000, has faced previous accusations of beating, drugging and sexually abusing its clients
Paris has campaigned for the school’s closure since going public with her allegations.
In August 2021, Universal Health Services was sued over the alleged ‘torture’ and ‘sexual abuse’ of another student.
Aaron Ross was 13 when he was sent to Provo Canyon School in Utah in 2001, where he claims a staff member forced him to perform oral sex on them a dozen times under threat of starvation, locked him in solitary confinement for weeks, and made him sit for weeks at a desk facing the wall.
The lawsuit accused the school of practicing ‘a myriad of maltreatment including physical, verbal and sexual abuse, chemical sedation and isolation, vigorous labor, the use of physical restraints, food and sleep deprivation and humiliation, amongst others, some of which the Geneva Convention banned as being too extreme for prisoners of war.’
It said Provo Canyon is among the ‘worst of the worst’ of allegedly abusive schools, highlighting Hilton’s campaign to tighten laws monitoring institutions for troubled teens, her alleged abuse at Provo Canyon, and hundreds of police and regulator investigations there over assaults, sex offences and child abuse since 2012.
In March 2021, the Utah Legislature approved the SB127 bill backed by Paris to enact more regulations on the state’s ‘troubled teen’ centers.
A spokesman for Provo Canyon School told Dailymail.com: ‘ Provo Canyon School was sold by its previous ownership in August 2000.
‘We therefore cannot comment on the operations or student experience prior to that time. What we can say is that the school provides a structured environment teaching life-skills, providing behavioral health therapy, and continuing education for youth who come to us with pre-existing and complex emotional, behavioral and psychiatric needs.
‘These youths have not been successful in typical home and school environments, and in many cases have a history of engaging in dangerous behaviors such as self-harming and/or attempting suicide, physical violence and/or aggression toward others, and use of illicit substances.
‘While we acknowledge there are individuals over the many years who believe they were not helped by the program, we are heartened by the many stories former residents share about how their stay was a pivot point in improving – and in many cases, saving – their lives.
‘Provo Canyon School today is an intensive, psychiatric residential treatment center for youth between the ages of 8 and 18. We offer innovative, evidence-based therapeutic interventions, academic instruction and life-skills training tailored to the needs of each of our students.
‘Our treatment is holistic in nature—and supports wellness strategies including education, physical activity, nutritious foods and appropriate structured outdoor time. Over the last two decades, mental health treatment has evolved from a behaviors-based foundation to a personalized, trauma-informed approach.
‘We work with extremely complex individuals who often present a danger to themselves and others.
‘Provo Canyon School is committed to the safety of our students and staff. Provo Canyon School DOES NOT use “solitary confinement” as a form of intervention. Licensed physicians prescribe medication as necessary to assist residents in addressing their mental health related diagnoses.
‘The students and their families are informed of changes to prescription medications and participate in decision-making about medications. Provo Canyon School physicians DO NOT prescribe or use any medication as a means of discipline. The infrequent use of medications to assist a student in gaining control is within the standard of care and the requirements in Utah code.
‘We do not use medication to sedate, render a student immobile or restrict them in their ability to continue to engage actively in their care. Provo Canyon School provides every student with a survey upon discharge that rates their overall experience and provides the facility with feedback.
‘Out of 1,651 discharged students from Provo Canyon School between January 2018 – June 2022, 88% responded to the survey, providing a score of 4.88 out of 5 overall on the student satisfaction rating scale.
‘In 2018, Student Satisfaction Survey Results reported: • 99.7% of students report that they feel better at discharge than when admitted • 99.1% of students report that overall they were very satisfied with their treatment • 97.8% of students report that they would recommend the facility to someone needing treatment • 99.4% of students report that they felt safe while they were there • 99.4% of students report that they were treated with dignity and respect.
In 2019, Student Satisfaction Survey Results reported: • 99.2% of students report that they feel better at discharge than when admitted • 98.9% of students report that overall they were very satisfied with their treatment • 98.2% of students report that they would recommend the facility to someone needing treatment • 99.2% of student report that they felt safe while they were there • 99.2% of students report that they were treated with dignity and respect.
In 2020, Student Satisfaction Survey Results reported: • 99.7% of students report that they feel better at discharge than when admitted • 100% of students report that overall they were very satisfied with their treatment • 100% of students report that they felt safe while they were there • 98.4% of student report that they were treated with dignity and respect
In 2021, Student Satisfaction Survey Results reported: • 100% of students report that they feel better at discharge than when admitted • 100% of students report that overall they were very satisfied with my treatment • 99.7% of students report that they felt safe while they were here. • 100% of students report that they were treated with dignity and respect According to YTD June 2022 Student Satisfaction Survey Results: • 100% of students report that they feel better at discharge than when admitted • 100% of students report that overall they were very satisfied with my treatment • 99.5% of students report that they felt safe while they were here. • 98.9% of students report that they were treated with dignity and respect.
‘Provo Canyon School is highly regulated by multiple agencies and organizations. Provo Canyon School is licensed by the State of Utah, Department of Human Services; it is accredited by The Joint Commission (national accreditation of health care organizations including psychiatric residential treatment centers) and Cognia/AdvancED for academic services.
Emotional: Hilton opened up about the alleged abuse she experienced at Provo Canyon School in her documentary released in 2020
‘On average, our facility receives 20-30 independent onsite audits annually by highly qualified, professional auditors. We are required by law and contract to report any significant, negative finding to all our regulatory agencies to which we are responsible, as well as required by contract to report to all funding agencies. We do not condone or promote any form of abuse.
‘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. We are concerned that the current media coverage may increase the stigma around seeking help for behavioral health concerns.
‘This would be a disservice if it leads people away from seeking necessary care and increases the stigma around mental health that providers, organizations, advocates and members of the public have worked so hard – and made much progress over the years – to break.
‘Thousands of youth with behavioral health issues have been helped over the years at Provo Canyon School. Although the vast majority of students report benefiting from the care they received at Provo Canyon School, occasionally some students do not believe their treatment was successful.
‘We cannot comment on individuals’ treatment, care or allegations due to privacy laws – but will reiterate that we are committed to providing high-quality care in a compassionate, safe environment. Ultimately, the value our clinicians and staff provide is evidenced by their ability to improve and save lives.
‘As related to recent legislation, Provo Canyon School is in support of Utah Senate Bill 127. We are supportive of the additional transparency the legislation requires. As always, our singular goal is student safety.
‘As a matter of policy and procedure, we have always operated within the requirements of our reporting obligations. Leadership and staff of Provo Canyon School are highly committed to providing effective treatment, compassionate care and a nurturing environment for the students and families we serve.
‘We welcome collaborative discussion, change and opportunity to enhance the care and services provided in our level of residential care. We seek to be transparent in our operations and practices as far as it also ensures the rights, respect and dignity of the students we treat.
If you or anyone you know has suffered sexual abuse call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).