Paris Hilton and Troubled Teen Industry Survivors Introduce Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act

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Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act Introduced With Help From Paris Hilton and TTI Survivors

Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act Introduced With Help From Paris Hilton and TTI Survivors

Apr 27, 2023

Paris Hilton and other survivors of the Troubled Teen Industry (TTI) visited Washington D.C. Thursday to introduce the Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act. Together with representatives from both parties – Congressman Ro Khanna (D- CA), Congressman Buddy Carter (R-GA), Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) – Hilton appeared for a press conference at the Senate Swamp on the Capitol Grounds to celebrate the bill’s introduction.

Paris Hilton and Troubled Teen Industry Survivors Introduce Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act

What is the Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act (SICAA)?

The Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act (SICAA) aims to prevent child abuse in TTI residential programs and enhance national data collection and reporting for youth in these programs. Supporters of the bipartisan bill have hailed it as an important first step in increasing transparency and preventing child abuse to ensure the safety and well-being of youth in institutional care settings. SICAA also aims to establish and disseminate best-practices that States can adopt to prevent and treat institutional child abuse.

“Although incidents of child abuse, neglect and preventable death have been well-documented in youth residential programs within the ‘Troubled Teen’ Industry for decades, inconsistent data collection and reporting standards make it impossible to capture the full scope of the issue. Current data suggests that as many as 200,000 children are placed into youth residential programs across the United States annually, utilizing as much as $23 billion dollars in public funds,” a press release from Jill Fritzo PR said.

In 2022, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report highlighting the scope of the abuse occurring within the Troubled Teen Industry. The report, entitled “HHS Should Facilitate Information Sharing Between States to Help Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Residential Facilities,” recommended that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) facilitate information sharing among states on promising practices for preventing and addressing maltreatment in youth residential programs. The report’s recommendations will be implemented with the introduction of SICAA, the press release confirmed.

Last year, Paris Hilton visited the nation’s capital to urge Congress to pass the Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act. Hilton described surviving both physical and emotional abuse in Utah’s Provo Canyon School facility when she was a teenager. As an outspoken advocate for survivors of institutional abuse, she has been a champion for passing the legislation.

“For decades, children have experienced widespread abuse, neglect, and preventable death in youth residential programs across the country. Meanwhile, this deceptive multi-billion dollar industry has operated without any real accountability or transparency. At long last, this is finally beginning to change with the Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act. As a survivor, I am proud to stand with bipartisan congressional leaders who are working to protect our nation’s most vulnerable youth,” Hilton said after the introduction of the SICAA was announced.

There are currently an estimated 120,000 to 200,000 minors in youth residential programs across the United States, with an estimated $23 billion in public funding being spent annually to place youth in Troubled Teen Industry-type facilities. “The lack of transparency and accountability in this industry has led to widespread physical, emotional, and sexual abuse of youth, resulting in hospitalizations, prolonged trauma, and hundreds of preventable child deaths,” Chelsea Maldonado, an investigative researcher and podcast host who is also a Troubled Teen Industry survivor, said.

The impending passage of the SICAA will be an “important step in lifting the curtain on an opaque industry by aggregating and disseminating data, bringing stakeholders and those with lived experience to the table to offer policy recommendations and ensuring the safety and well-being of our nation’s most vulnerable youth,” Maldonado added.

Representative Buddy Carter, a co-sponsor of the bill, praised Hilton “for her courageous act of speaking up and speaking out about what happened to her,” Fox News reported.

“Who among us did not struggle as a teen. That’s just part of the normal growing-up process. And that’s why it’s so very important we understand,” Carter said during a Fox News segment with Hilton. “There are some good facilities out there that provide care and counseling and treatment, but there are also some out there that cause physical and mental damage.”

“What this bill is going to do is to enhance the collection of data and of information so that we can see what the goals, what the practices, the ethics of some of these group homes and these facilities are so that parents and children can make an informed decision on whether they want to participate or not,” Carter added.

For additional information on the Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act, please visit Trapped In Treatment’s website.

For Dordulian Law Group’s 2022 blog on the Troubled Teen Industry and Paris Hilton’s story, please click here.

School and Institutional Abuse Claims Continue to Increase

In a recent blog, Dordulian Law Group provided insight into a troubling report from Education Week which confirmed that 69 school districts across the U.S. paid out damages awards and settlements of $1 million or more in 2022 following claims of physical and sexual abuse. Those 69 payouts were a sharp increase from the previous year.

In 2021, 38 damages awards of $1 million or more were handed down in school sexual and physical abuse cases.

The Education Week article noted, however, that such alarming statistics are likely an underestimate of the true number of million-dollar school sexual misconduct settlements given that the data is only pulled from publicly available records and reports.

There are likely some settlements and jury awards that aren’t public,” Education Week said.

Why Are School Sexual and Physical Abuse Lawsuits Increasing?

Education Week offered a number of explanations for the rise in million-dollar school settlements from year-to-year:

  • A growing tendency by sexual abuse victims to hold institutions accountable for how they address abuse
  • State law changes that allow more childhood sexual abuse survivors to sue
  • A greater mistrust of educational institutions which has spurred more lawsuits and larger jury awards

“Beyond the legal and financial consequences, there’s an emotional impact, as students and staff members come to terms with potential wrongdoing by their district, and a reputational cost,” Education Week said.

How to File a School or Teacher Sexual Abuse Lawsuit

Survivors of school sexual assault or abuse may wish to pursue justice through a civil claim with Dordulian Law Group (DLG). Filing a civil lawsuit against your perpetrator – whether an individual or an institution – can be a means of recovering the financial compensation you deserve. A civil lawsuit is separate from any criminal proceedings that may be brought against a sexual predator by the District Attorney’s Office.

When you contact DLG’s California school sex abuse attorneys for a free consultation, we will review your case and provide you with all available legal options. We fight tirelessly for school abuse survivors and file claims seeking to secure all applicable damages for past harm endured by a teacher, principal, counselor, coach, or clergy member:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Hospital expenses
  • Medical care/treatment costs (past and future)
  • Counseling or therapy expenses (past and future)
  • Emotional trauma/psychological harm
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Lost wages due to the sexual abuse
  • Lost earning capacity due to the sexual abuse
  • Punitive damages

Here in California, countless school sexual and physical abuse lawsuits have led to major settlements or verdicts on behalf of survivors. Some examples of recent state school sexual abuse claims that have been settled and garnered major headlines include:

  • A San Jose school was ordered to pay $7.5 million to five men who were sexually abused by their elementary school teacher in the late 1970s and early ’80s.
  • Survivors of a former Sun Valley high school wrestling coach were awarded a $52 million settlement in October 2022. The complaint alleged that the Los Angeles Unified School District knew of prior sexual misconduct and did nothing about it.
  • A jury awarded $102.5 million in March 2022 to two women who sued a Northern California school district. The complaint alleged that officials failed to stop a middle school teacher from sexually grooming and abusing them as minors.
  • In April 2022, a $13.7 million settlement was reached with the Riverside Unified School District after 10 students alleged sexual abuse by former school technology aide Fernando Figueroa. The survivors ranged between the ages of 7 and 11 at the time of the abuse.
  • An $11 million school sex abuse settlement was reached between Redlands Unified School District and seven survivors. The plaintiffs, initially named in four separate lawsuits, accused a former Clement Middle School teacher, Sean Ramiro Lopez, of various sex crimes (Lopez is currently serving a 74-year prison sentence for sexual abuse).

To secure the justice and maximum financial compensation you deserve for your school sexual or physical abuse case, contact DLG’s experienced Los Angeles, California, sexual assault attorneys today.

Our Sexual Assault Justice Experts are here to help survivors secure justice. Contact our top-rated attorneys online or by phone for a free consultation today.

Free Troubled Teen Industry/School Sex Abuse Attorney Consultation

To discuss your school sexual abuse civil lawsuit freely and confidentially, contact a member of DLG’s SAJE Team today for a consultation at 866-GO-SEE-SAM. DLG was founded by Sam Dordulian, a former sex crimes prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County whose more than 25 years of experience includes obtaining life sentences against some of our community’s most dangerous sex offenders. A member of RAINN’s (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), National Leadership Council, Dordulian is dedicated to securing justice for all sexual assault and abuse survivors – one case at a time.

Call 866-GO-SEE-SAM to learn more.

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