Miss Pennsylvania Valerie Gatto, a contestant on last night’s Miss USA pageant, described herself as a “product of rape” in an interview with TODAY.com. Gatto revealed she was conceived after her mother was raped at knifepoint by a stranger.
Gatto is using her experience and status to educate women about sexual assault and to provide an example of someone who rose above her situation to achieve success.
“I believe God put me here for a reason,” Gatto told TODAY.com. “To inspire people, to encourage them, to give them hope that everything is possible and you can’t let your circumstances define your life.”
Gatto’s mother originally hid the pregnancy from her family and intended on putting her up for adoption, but was dissuaded the night Gatto was born.
“Valerie’s mom told her family about her adoption plans,” Gatto’s biography reads. “But Valerie’s great-grandmother said – God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. Her mother listened and decided to raise Valerie with the help of God and her family.”
Gatto acknowledged that most people would view her situation as negative, but she claims that her close family never “looked at it as something negative.”
“Being a voice is life-changing,” she said. “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.”