Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibilityInspired by Paris Hilton, teen files lawsuit over sex abuse at Utah ranch | KUTV
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Inspired by Paris Hilton, teen files lawsuit over sex abuse at Utah ranch

 Hannah Archuleta on a horse at Turn-About Ranch in Garfield County, Utah in 2019. Archuleta said she was told to smile for the picture so she would look happy for outsiders. (Photo: Courtesy Archuleta family)
Hannah Archuleta on a horse at Turn-About Ranch in Garfield County, Utah in 2019. Archuleta said she was told to smile for the picture so she would look happy for outsiders. (Photo: Courtesy Archuleta family)
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Hannah Archuleta went directly from an on-air appearance on the "Dr. Phil Show" to a Utah behavior therapy ranch where she said she was sexually assaulted days after arriving and eventually punished for reporting it after a second occurrence.

Inspired by Paris Hilton — who recently spoke out against alleged abuse while she was at Provo Canyon School — Hannah supports Senate Bill 127 that would create tougher reporting regulations for such schools and require unannounced inspections. The bill is part of the current legislative session that ends in just more than a week.

"In what appeared to me to be punishment for reporting my abuse, I was required to spend extra time picking up horse manure, walking in circles around a horse corral, and sitting at a desk facing a wall for hours. I also had to do forced labor outside in below-freezing temperatures, and sleep on a wooden plank with no pillow," Archuleta said.

Wednesday, Hannah said after arriving at the ranch she was assaulted by a male staffer, but didn't report it because she feared the repercussions. After the same staffer touched her again, on the buttocks and "vaginal area" she said she talked to a female staff member and was punished for reporting.

"I knew I had to tell someone this time," Archuleta said.

One staffer told her she was lying, but the teen both wrote a letter and told her story to an authority figure at the ranch, bringing the claimed punishments.

Archuleta said for reporting the assaults she was given additional "reflection time" and worst of all, the male staffer continued to work there.

"We think it is long overdue for Turn-About Ranch to be held accountable for what happened to Hannah when she was there," said Gloria Allred, Archuleta's lawyer who filed a lawsuit against the ranch.

Located in Garfield County, the ranch bills itself as a place where troubled teens develop into "effective individuals" on a working cattle ranch. It was also the site of a violent 2016 killing where 61-year-old Jimmy Woolsey was hit over the head with rebar multiple times and did not survive. A lawsuit was filed against the facility, saying that then-17-year-old Clay Brewer, sentenced to five years to life for the killing, shouldn't ever have been admitted to the facility because he had an active drug addiction.

"While on the ranch, students learn about concepts like leadership, teamwork, accountability, and responsibility," the ranch's website says.

When Hannah contacted her parents about what happened to her, her father said he went to the ranch and rescued her.

Tony Archuleta said he called the Garfield County Sheriff's Office to report the assault and was interviewed over the phone. He was told a case file was opened and then that the person responsible for the case had been switched, but that nobody ever followed up or interviewed his daughter. He said he felt it was swept under the rug.

Garfield County Sheriff's Office told KUTV it could not comment in detail because of ongoing litigation, but said the allegations are inaccurate and the officer who investigated the claims was as thorough as he possibly could be.

"There appears to be a major problem in Utah at some residential facilities which have developed programs that have been marketed as programs that help troubled teens," Allred said. The well-known lawyer has a history of taking on cases to protect the rights of women, including in high-profile cases. She said Hilton was an inspiration for Archuleta but wasn't directly involved in the lawsuit.

Turn-About Ranch had not yet replied to a request for comment at the time this report was published, but issued a statement to media on Thursday night. The ranch claims its investigation into Archuleta's claims was inhibited because "she and her father were unwilling to communicate with us" after Tony Archuleta withdrew his daughter from the ranch. The full statement follows:

Upon learning of this young woman’s accusation, we took immediate action. Unfortunately, her father removed her from our facility before we could conduct a full inquiry. Both she and her father were unwilling to communicate with us from that time. We interviewed other students and staff members and were unable to corroborate her story. We fully cooperated with the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, but without further contact with the accusing party, our options were limited.
"The next communication we received was a demand for cash payment in order to avoid litigation some months ago.
“We would never take lightly an allegation of mistreatment to any of our students. Now that this incident is the subject of litigation, we must withhold our full response for a later date. But it is important to note that these allegations were fully investigated and that the account given by opposing legal counsel to the media was incomplete, to say the least.”

Hilton appeared at Utah's Capitol in front of a committee to outline some of the abuse she experienced at Provo Canyon School in the late '90s. She was joined by two others who said they suffered abuse at the same facility. The school says it has changed management since that time.

"I was verbally, mentally, and physically abused on a daily basis," said Hilton of her time at Provo Canyon School. "I was cut off from the outside world and stripped of all of my human rights."

Hilton initially spoke to People Magazine about the abuse in September, 2020 and has been vocal about it since. Last October she called for the closure of the school.

"I am here to support Paris and many others who speak up against child abuse," Archuleta said.

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This report has been updated with additional information since its initial publication.

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