Paris Hilton sounded the alarm last year on alleged abuse taking place at boarding schools with her own survivor story and now the hotel heiress is helping "thousands" of others around the country heal from their trauma as reform is on the horizon, sources tell Fox News.
Hilton, 39, made headlines Monday as she testified at a state Senate committee hearing in Utah about the alleged abuse she suffered years ago as a student at Provo Canyon School in the late '90s. She was one of multiple institutional abuse survivors who lobbied for a bill seeking to regulate the state's troubled teen industry.
Hilton first dropped bombshell claims of physical and mental abuse at the school in her "This is Paris" documentary. Multiple former students and even one former staff member of the school stood in support of Hilton's allegations in previous interviews with Fox News, ultimately dubbing her a "hero."
PCS declined to address the allegations ahead of Hilton’s documentary, telling Fox News in a statement in Sept., "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."
Hilton has worked closely with the Breaking Code Silence movement which is made up of survivors raising awareness about institutional child abuse around the nation. Members of the movement told Fox News on Tuesday that Hilton is "absolutely" the reason the issue made its way to the state Senate committee floor.
"I definitely was not surprised but very happy to see this kind of progress being made. We've worked closely with Paris's impact team to work on all of this together. So we've been aware step by step of the process. I've just been really happy to see that when Paris stepped into the arena as an advocate that she really meant it. To see her show up in that way and be as vulnerable as she was and as well-spoken as she was yesterday I was really proud of her and happy to see that," Jen Robison, co-founder of Breaking Code Silence, told Fox News in an interview Tuesday.
Robison acknowledged that Hilton's recalling of past trauma is certainly no easy feat.
"Knowing Paris, she has a lot of heart and she cares so much about this and as a survivor of institutional abuse myself I know how scary it is to speak in a public forum about that kind of trauma. I have no doubt that she was very nervous and I think it was incredibly brave of her to go through the process of making sure she knew what she needed to say and being able to do it so well," Robison added.
One former Provo Canyon employee spoke to Fox News on anonymity on Tuesday. The employee said watching Hilton testify at Monday's state Senate committee hearing in Utah made him "so proud."
"It takes a lot of guts. So few celebrities use their star power for a good cause. What Paris is doing now matters. She's taking advantage of her platform in a really positive way," the employee, who previously supported Hilton's abuse allegations to Fox News, added.
Robison acknowledged that Hilton has single-handedly begun breaking down the years-long abusive system in Utah. The former reality TV star has the potential to create nationwide change, she added.
"This is the first time we have seen Utah take this seriously. Even though it's well past time, it's really cool to see that they are caring and understand the gravity of the problem," Robison continued.
The bill Hilton and others testified for would require more government oversight of youth residential treatment centers. It would also require them to document when they use restraints. The measure passed unanimously on Monday. It will now head to the Senate and/or the House for votes, Caroline Lorson, the Senior Government Relations Coordinator for Breaking Code Silence, shared.
Lorson said on Tuesday that this first step to reform in Utah is "absolutely based off of Paris' bravery."
"When Paris came out with 'This is Paris' she simultaneously let the entire survivor community know that it was ok to speak about their experiences and to speak about their trauma," Lorson said.
Lorson recalled one important quote from Hilton's testimony.
"She said in the hearing, 'Money does not make you immune to abuse,'" Lorson shared. "Being able to be vulnerable such as she has allows us to relate. I love that aspect because when we go through trauma, we have this feeling that no one else will understand. Those kinds of secrets can keep us sick. I applaud Paris for using that platform to be so vulnerable and allow thousands of others to heal as well."
Hilton revealed Monday still suffers from nightmares and insomnia due to her past abuse at Provo Canyon School. The school has previously declined to comment, claiming that because it is under new ownership since Hilton's attendance they cannot comment.
On Monday, Hilton called for top government officials like President Joe Biden to become involved in ending abuse within the troubled teen industry.
"I hope that they heard that message loud and clear and that they're going to take swift action so that our states and our nation does not continue to overlook the institutional abuse of children," Lorson said.
Since Hilton released "This is Paris," other stars have spoken out about their own similar experiences at boarding schools, including Kat Von D and Michael Jackson's daughter Paris Jackson.
If you or a child you know is suffering from abuse, please contact The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).