Paris Hilton exposes traumatic institutional child abuse  

Paris Hilton’s testimony to the US Congress about the childhood abuse she suffered in a ‘youth treatment facility’ exposes the dangers millions of children are facing in institutions around the world today – including orphanages. 

“I learned nothing there except trauma.”

These are the words Paris Hilton used to describe her experience in a child care facility. She spent years inside a harmful institution, far from her family, terrified and abused. Sadly, she is not alone. 

Currently, there are at least 5.4 million children around the world who are separated from their families, confined in institutions like orphanages – even though 80% of them are not orphans. 

Research has shown that the majority of all children in orphanages suffer physical, emotional or sexual abuse. And as Hilton also testified, the trauma suffered in childhood can last a lifetime. 

Watch Paris Hilton’s testimony on the harm of institutions.

Paris Hilton testifying in Congress.
Paris Hilton bravely exposing the realities of institutional care to US Congress, June 2024.

“I was physically, verbally, and emotionally abused,” said Hilton. “My peers around me were being sexually abused. I was strangled. I was hit. And I was cut off from the outside world.”

“My parents had no idea,” she continues. “They were deceived. Just like the parents of children are really manipulated by these places, the same thing with (my) parents.”

“If you are a child in the system, hear my words: I see you, I believe you, I know what you’re going through and I’m not giving up on you.” 

Paris Hilton

Rachel’s* story

Significantly, these painful stories of child abuse in orphanages are all too common around the world. Rachel in Uganda is one with such a story.  

Rachel lived with her father and two younger brothers after her parents separated when she was young. When their father passed away suddenly, the children found themselves on the street, and were eventually taken to separate orphanages. 

“The staff used to beat us and abuse us.”

Rachel, similar to Paris Hilton, testifies her experiences of abuse in a Ugandan orphanage.
Rachel explaining the traumatic conditions she grew up in inside an orphanage in Rwanda.
Hope and Homes for Children

Like Paris Hilton’s parents, Rachel’s mother was kept in the dark as well. Then, when her mother tried to visit, she too was beaten up, and denied access to her own child.  

A cycle of abuse

Over the next years of her life, the orphanage directors trapped Rachel inside and forced her to do whatever they demanded.

“Instead of going to school, the directors used to take me around to the radio to speak, and we would get a lot of donations and sponsors to the orphanage,” she remembers. “He used to travel everywhere, America. We never saw the money, the whole money went to the orphanage director, not the children.

Over time, the abuse got worse and worse.

“When I was touring the country with the director of the orphanage, he raped me.” 


The sexual abuse continued for years. Eventually, Rachel fell pregnant. She was just a teenager.

Rachel, much like Paris Hilton, discusses how important it is for children to have families, not orphanages.
Since escaping life in the orphanage, Rachel has become an advocate for the importance of family care.
Hope and Homes for Children

Finding freedom

Years later, Rachel managed to escape the terrible confines of the orphanage. But not before she had given birth to two of the director’s children, one who died as an infant and another she had to leave behind at the orphanage. 

“He stopped me from seeing my baby. I felt like I was living in prison, and in another way… missing my baby.” 

From this pain, Rachel has become committed to telling her story so that people will know the harms of institutional care. This abuse children are suffering in orphanages around the world must end. And it can – by moving the financial, social and community support away from orphanages and back to family. 

“I think I would be much better and complete if I grew up with my family and achieved my dreams of being a lawyer.” 


100 years of research backs her up. Kids do far better in families than in institutions.  

A parent holding their baby.
All children deserve the love and care of home to thrive.
Hope and Homes for Children

Making a change

Let’s hope that Paris Hilton’s brave testimony in the US Congress lets millions more people around the world recognise the harm caused by locking children away in institutions, and the desperate need to get these children back to family.  

Read more about the harms of orphanages and how we’re bringing separated children back to family.

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