When Miss Pennsylvania Valerie Gatto competes in the Miss USA competition on Sunday, she hopes to show that even the bleakest of beginnings can turn into a beautiful ending.
Gatto, 24, recently revealed on Today.com that her mother was attacked at age 19, and that she is a product of that rape. Now Gatto hopes a Miss USA win will help her make a difference in the lives of young women.
“Being a child of a rape, not knowing who my father is, not knowing if he’s ever been found, most people would think it’s such a negative situation," Gatto said. “I believe God put me here for a reason: to inspire people, to encourage them, to give them hope that everything is possible and you can’t let your circumstances define your life.”
As Miss Pennsylvania, Gatto has used her mother's example to educate women about sexual assault awareness. “Unfortunately, we have to be aware of these crimes,” Gatto said. “I hope to show others how to be proactive, what to do, to be present, to be aware of your surroundings, little things like that..I’m educating women about a topic that’s so serious, but it’s so awesome to see their responses. They say it changes their life.”
A Miss USA title would give Gatto a larger platform to reach more people. “Being a voice is life-changing, and I just want to keep going,” she said.