A few days ago, I finished reading Don’t Think, Dear, which was about ballet. When I was finished reading, I went searching through my huge queue of books to be read, bumping quite a lot of them to the top of the list. Then, I remembered that Paris Hilton wrote a memoir that I downloaded some time ago.
I remembered being excited to download the book, Paris: The Memoir, when I first heard about it. It’s not because I’m a Paris Hilton fan… or, maybe I should say I wasn’t one before I started reading her story. I have to admit, though. She’s won me over somewhat. I’ll know for sure if she’s really turned me into a booster very soon, as I’m cruising through her book pretty speedily.
I’m not going to get into the specifics of the book yet, because I plan to review it. However, I do want to state that one of the reasons I admire Paris Hilton is that she’s speaking out against the “teen help/troubled teen” industry, which has been one of my “pet projects” for over twenty years. I also admire her because she’s managed to forgive her parents for signing her up for horrific and repeated abuse, for which they paid top dollar. If my parents had done that to me, I don’t think I would be interested in speaking to them ever again.
I’ve read a number of books about the so-called “teen help” experience. Many of the people who have written about being locked up in boarding schools/boot camps are just regular folks. However, famous people have also written books about being sent away for “help” when they were teenagers. I read Drew Barrymore’s book, Little Girl Lost, years ago, about her stay in a rehab in California. I read Long Way Home, Cameron Douglas’s book about his drug addiction and being sent away to Provo Canyon School, which is one of the places Paris Hilton was sent.
Some schools and hospitals truly are lifesaving. To be fair, Drew Barrymore and Cameron Douglas were both seriously addicted to dangerous drugs. I seem to remember Drew was completely out of control by the time she was thirteen years old. I recall seeing photos of her at age nine or so, completely bombed out of her mind at a party. And I know that Cameron Douglas has spent time in prison because of his issues with drugs.
On the other hand, there have been plenty of books written by people who weren’t addicted to drugs or doing dangerous things that put their health at risk. Saving Alex, which is about a “non-famous” person, is the story about a young lesbian woman who was raised Mormon. Her parents couldn’t abide her “same sex attraction”, so they sent her away to be “straightened out”. Troubled is a book written about several people who were sent away to teen boot camps to be rehabilitated.
In so many of these stories, including Paris Hilton’s, there are allegations of severe child abuse and, in some sad cases, even deaths. The teen help industry has been a cash cow for decades. It was a largely unregulated business, allowing the owners of the schools to collect big bucks to further screw up already troubled teenagers.
In Paris Hilton’s case, she alleges being tortured– beaten up, sexually abused, and verbally abused by so-called staff members and other “students”. When she tried to tell her parents, they refused to believe her, and signed her up for even worse “treatment”. It wasn’t until she threatened to go to the press the moment she turned 18 that her parents finally relented. What is very sad to me is that it only took the threat of Paris Hilton outing her parents to the press is what got them to stop paying people to abuse their daughter. It dawns on me now that Paris Hilton could have metaphorically clicked her heels three times to go home again… all she had to do is threaten to out her parents for abdicating their responsibilities and sending Paris away to literally be tortured by strangers!
One of the things Paris Hilton had to endure as part of her “troubled teen” experience was the dreaded “body cavity search”. Paris didn’t know what that was before it happened to her for the first time. I remember how I found out what they were… It was when I watched Police Academy II, back in the 1980s…
Paris Hilton describes what it was like for her to have her most personal and private parts of her body explored by sadistic “nurses” at the “schools” she attended. She was a teenager and a virgin at the time. I remember what it was like for me when I had my first exam. It was extremely traumatizing for me, so much so, that I’ve only had it done on one other occasion in my lifetime. The doctor who did my first exam wasn’t actually trying to hurt me, although that is what happened. I think she just didn’t care if she hurt me– which isn’t the same as being sadistic. In Paris’s case, it sounds like the people who were looking for contraband through a humiliating body cavity search were actively trying to be cruel to her.
When I read about the multiple violations of Paris’s body and soul, it made my heart go out to her, and it made me ANGRY at the people who allowed this scenario to occur. When you think about it, this whole situation came down to money. Paris was “out of control”, so her parents sent her away to be “fixed”. She writes that they thought she was okay, because they were paying “top dollar”. The school was extorting huge sums of money for the privilege of abusing a minor. And when Paris finally whispered to her father that if they didn’t take her home, she’d go straight to the press when she turned 18, all of a sudden, they were ready to spring her from the joint! How disgusting!
Like I said… I do understand that parents who have teens who are out of control are in a tough situation. Sometimes it is appropriate for teenagers to be sent to facilities where they can get professional help. But those facilities should be licensed and regulated, and the people who use them should never be locked in filthy rooms, forced to eat disgusting food, physically abused and threatened, compelled to listen to religious or political dogma, or worked/exercised until they collapse! Paris Hilton spent time in Provo Canyon School which, she writes, was staffed mostly by Mormons who went to Brigham Young University. It wouldn’t surprise me if she wasn’t exposed to religious abuse, too, knowing what I know about the LDS church.
Back in the mid 2000s, Paris Hilton had a terrible reputation. A lot of it was based on her reality show with Nicole Richie, and the fact that there was a sex tape out there about her. She’s pretty and blonde, and people have assumed she’s just a bimbo with no heart or soul. Reading her book, and watching the movie about her life (“This is Paris”, available on YouTube) has shown me that there’s a lot more to her than meets the eye. She’s doing important work, and she deserves massive respect for speaking out about her experiences.
I should be done reading the book within the next day or so, and then I will be posting a review. Suffice to say that my opinion of Paris Hilton has completely changed in recent years. She may not be someone I’d ever be besties with, but she’s definitely no dummy. And no matter what, she shouldn’t have had two years of her life wasted in snakepit “teen rehab” schools that are almost entirely about incarcerating challenging teenagers until they turn 18 and are no longer their parents’ legal responsibilities. Those types of schools are not doing good work when they have their staffers abuse people whose brains are still developing. Once they get out into the world as “independent adults”, they become the rest of the world’s problems.
Anyway, that’s my rant for today… time to practice my guitar and think about happier things.