This Beauty Pageant Contestant Just Shared A Powerful Message That All Women Need To Hear
Although she didn't win the overall competition, Miss Pennsylvania, Valerie Gatto, is hoping to use her voice and now-national platform to raise awareness for sexual assault and violence against women.
Gatto was among the Top 20 contestants who advanced through the Miss USA pageant in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Sunday. And although she didn't win, she's happy to have had the opportunity to tell her story, which involves a very personal experience regarding sexual assault.
The 24-year-old woman is a self-described "product of rape," and wants to educate other women about what that means to her.
Host Giuliana Rancic highlighted Gatto's past when talking about the contestants' history. When Gatto's mother was 19, she was raped at knifepoint one night while walking around downtown Pittsburgh. As a result of her attack, she became pregnant with Gatto.
Gatto said she now wants to spread awareness about how women can protect themselves, and how to deal with sexual assault if it does happen to them.
"Unfortunately, we have to be aware of these crimes. 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."
Gatto may not have won the crown, but she says the experience — and the young women who now know her story — will allow her to continue her work in striving to keep women safe.