Sen. Tommy Tuberville joined fellow legislators and socialite/philanthropist Paris Hilton Thursday in a show of support on Capitol Hill for legislation that will aim to combat institutional child abuse.
The Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act has received bipartisan support with legislators from each party recognizing the significance of the topic.
Tuberville, while speaking about his support for the legislation, discussed what he saw in some of the youth care facilities throughout the country that have a history of institutionalized child abuse.
“I know the reform that we need. I’ve been to some of these facilities just recently that Paris will talk about today,” he said. “They cost about what it costs to go to Harvard, but most of them look like something out of a Charles Dicken’s novel. Gloomy and dark. It’s not something you’d want to be proud of.
“Right now there’s not enough oversight in some of these schools. States are doing the best they can do to regulate, but we need to do more on a national level. We don’t know where the money goes, we don’t know whose making all the money. We don’t understand the regulations that they’re going through.
“This bill simply takes and looks at the facilities and looks at them nation wide. This is not a central problem, this is a nationwide problem. There’s an old saying that sunlight is the best disinfectant. We need some more sunlight on these facilities so we can put a stop to the waste, fraud, and abuse in the system. I’m proud to support this bill and stand with our kids.”
Hilton spoke about her experience as a child within such institutions and the abuse that she received from the staff while there.
“This issue is deeply personal for me, from the ages of 16 to 18 I was sent to four troubled teen industry facilities,” she said. “Each one was more horrific than the last. I witnessed and experienced sexual abuse from adult staff, as well as endured verbal and emotional abuse daily. I was yelled at, dehumanized, silenced, and stripped of any semblance of privacy.
“If I attempted to tell my parents about the abuse on the phone the staff would immediately hang up the phone and punish me. On top of this we had no access to the outside doors, no sunlight or fresh air. These were considered privileges.”
Hilton believes the new legislation can enact real change.
“For decades, children have experienced widespread abuse, neglect, and preventable death in youth residential programs across the country,” she said. “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.”
The bill, if enacted, would provide greater oversight and data transparency for institutional youth treatment programs, improve information sharing systems between the states, and disseminate best practices for preventing institutional child abuse.