Miss USA contestant, Valerie Gatto, is using her own tragic experience to raise awareness of sexual assault and rape.
The brave beauty pageant contestant told the story of how her mother was raped at knife-point, aged 19: “Being a child of 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 ... I believe God put me here for a reason: to inspire people, to encourage them, to give them a hope that everything is possible and you can’t let your circumstances define your life.”
Valerie explained that she first found out about what had happened to her mum when she was in third grade and began to ask questions about her dad, she says her mum responded by saying: “Something bad happened to me. A very bad man hurt me but God gave me you.”
Ms Gatto is now using her experience to raise awareness of sexual assault and rape in a bid to protect potential victims, telling NBC’s Today: “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.”