Stunning Miss USA contestant Valerie Gatto has revealed that she’s the biological child of a rapist.
The Miss Pennsylvania pageant queen was conceived when her mother was attacked and raped at knifepoint when she was 19 years old, the New York Post
Calling herself “a product of rape,” Gatto says that her mother’s ordeal has launched her on a path to educate women about protecting themselves from sexual assault.
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“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,” she told Today.com.
“Being a voice is life-changing, and I just want to keep going.”
Gatto said that her mother was attacked on a busy Pittsburgh street by a man who dragged her behind a building and raped her, according to Post. She said that the rapist was planning to murder her mother, but she managed to escape.
As a child, her mother told her, “Something bad happened to me. A very bad man hurt me, but God gave me you.”
Although Gatto’s mom planned to give her baby up for adoption, she was persuaded by family members to keep the child.
“I grew up with my mom and my grandparents. They never looked at it as something negative,” Gatto, a 24-year-old marketing consultant told Today.com. “I have a loving, supportive family who told me I could be the president of the United States.”
Gatto, who graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh, has been following her dream of being a beauty queen and an actress. And now she’s hoping to become Miss USA so that she can help teach women how to prevent themselves becoming victims of violent sex attacks.
“Unfortunately, we have to be aware of these crimes,” said Gatto. “I hope to show others how to be proactive, what to do, to be present, to be aware of your surroundings.
“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.
“I’m not sharing this story for publicity. I’m not doing this for any selfish reasons. I truly am doing this to change the world and make a difference.”
The 2014 Miss USA Competition will air live from Baton Rouge, La., at 8:00 p.m.
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