Miss Pennsylvania Valerie Gatto, who will compete Sunday in the Miss USA pageant, revealed on Thursday that she was born after her mother was raped at age 19.
Gatto, who graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh, told NBC’s “Today” show that she wants to encourage women to be more aware of sexual violence.
“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 said. “Being a voice is life-changing, and I just want to keep going.”
She said her mother told her about the rape when she was young, telling her: “Something bad happened to me. A very bad man hurt me, but God gave me you.”
The Miss USA pageant will air live from Baton Rouge, La., at 7 p.m. Sunday on NBC.
Miss Kansas Audrey Banach, 22, a recent Kansas State University graduate, lives in Kansas City, Kan.
Miss Missouri Erica Sturdefant, 23, a recent Lindenwood University graduate, is a Springfield native.