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California Lawmaker Hosts Paris Hilton at Capitol for Bipartisan Youth Protection Bill

California Lawmaker Hosts Paris Hilton at Capitol for Bipartisan Youth Protection Bill

State Sen. Shannon Grove speaks at a press conference for Senate Bill 1043 with Paris Hilton and fellow Sens. Aisha Wahab, far left, and Janet Nguyen on April 15 at the Capitol. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Travis Gillmore
Travis Gillmore

4/16/2024

Updated: 4/16/2024

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California state Sen. Shannon Grove and a group of senators from both sides of the aisle welcomed celebrity advocate Paris Hilton to the Capitol April 15 for a hearing on a newly introduced bill to safeguard teens in youth residential programs.
As an outspoken survivor of abuse at the hands of workers employed at facilities for troubled teens, Ms. Hilton said she is using her platform to protect others.
“I want the children to know that I believe them, and I am going to continue shining the spotlight on this and fighting for this,” Ms. Hilton told The Epoch Times during the press conference. “I have been for the past three years, and I’ve already helped change eight state laws to protect children.”
Ms. Hilton’s advocacy efforts include sponsoring Senate Bill 1043, introduced by Ms. Grove and co-authored by a bipartisan group of senators including fellow Republican Janet Nguyen and Democrats Angelique Ashby and Aisha Wahab, which would require facilities to document the use of restraints and seclusion rooms, among other things.
The measure would establish a publicly available database to improve transparency, with information related to injuries and deaths catalogued for review.
Ms. Hilton, founder and CEO of 11:11 Media company, told The Epoch Times that her commitment to protecting the powerless is a lifelong mission.
“I will continue this fight, and I just want to be the hero that I needed when I was a little girl,” she said. “I understand what they’re going through, and they shouldn’t be ashamed. The only ones that should be ashamed are the ones that hurt them.”
Ms. Hilton spent 11 months at the Provo Canyon School at the age of 17 in 1997 and suffered a litany of abuse, including physical, psychological, and sexual trauma, she said, noting that children are suffering from a problem that thrives on “secrecy and exploitation.”
“It’s a nightmare that no child should ever have to endure,” Ms. Hilton said.
SB 1043 aims to prevent others from experiencing such issues by ordering facilities to disclose traumatic experiences.
“Knowing what these children have experienced, we must require the highest levels of transparency, accountability, and care for our vulnerable population,” Ms. Grove said during the press conference. “That’s why I introduced SB 1043.”
Lawmakers from both parties joined in to ensure the bill’s safe passage through the Legislature.
Sen. Angelique Ashby speaks at a press conference with Paris Hilton in support of Senate Bill 1043 at the Capitol on April 15, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Sen. Angelique Ashby speaks at a press conference with Paris Hilton in support of Senate Bill 1043 at the Capitol on April 15, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

“That’s what’s so beautiful about this,” Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle told The Epoch Times after the press conference. “I’m happy to support this bill, and I think it will get through the process and will be signed into law.”
One fellow senator noted the diversity of viewpoints that came together to support the bill.
“We’re all here today asking what a Republican, an heiress, a single mom, and a former foster youth have in common,” Democratic state Sen. Aisha Wahab said while highlighting her experiences in the foster system and her ascendancy to the Legislature, including serving as chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee. “The honest truth is we want to protect children.”
In a brief hearing before the Senate’s Human Services Committee following the press conference, Ms. Grove and Ms. Hilton presented the bill to a welcoming audience of bipartisan lawmakers.
“We need to really oversee this in our state,” state Sen. Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh said during the hearing while thanking the author and Ms. Hilton for their work.
A long line of supporters offered me-too comments, including several survivors of abuse at youth facilities.
Paris Hilton and state Sen. Shannon Grove speak to the Senate's Human Services Committee on April 15, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Paris Hilton and state Sen. Shannon Grove speak to the Senate's Human Services Committee on April 15, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Marie Alvarado-Gil, chair of the human services committee, noted the absence of opposition witnesses and said it signaled widespread support for the measure.
“I would wonder who would come to oppose this bill because the nature of the proposal ... is transparency and accountability,” Ms. Alvarado-Gil said during the hearing.
The author thanked the committee members and reiterated the need for more data to better understand what is happening in youth treatment programs.
After passing the committee, the bill will move on to respective committees and subsequent debate on the Senate floor before proceeding to the Assembly for consideration.
Looking to take the momentum to protect children nationwide, Ms. Hilton is also championing legislation at the federal level.
Known as the Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act, the proposal would establish the Federal Work Group on Youth Residential Programs tasked with developing and publishing recommendations regarding a national database to aggregate data, including length of stay and use of restraints and seclusion, including outcome-oriented data such as discharge setting.
The goal of the act is to develop and promote best practices for youth residential programs while making parents and others aware of issues taking place inside treatment facilities.
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Travis Gillmore is an avid reader and journalism connoisseur based in California covering finance, politics, the State Capitol, and breaking news for The Epoch Times.

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