A Miss USA contestant is speaking out about sexual assault, a topic she knows all too well.
Miss Pennsylvania Valerie Gatto told Today.com that she's a "product of rape." The 24-year-old revealed her mother became pregnant with her at 19, following an assault at knifepoint. According to Gatto's website, she hopes her reign as the state's beauty queen will "inspire people of all ages and to teach others how to defy the odds and achieve their dreams."
In the future, Gatto said she hopes to teach other women how to protect themselves from sexual assault and "as an advocate, she hopes to create a stronger society of women."
The University of Pittsburgh graduate and marketing coordinator expressed her gratitude online for the support she's received. On Friday, she posted a message to Facebook, thanking everyone for their support and writing that she "has always been vocal about my story and an advocate for sexual assault. Now, to see everything unfold to the world, it is fulfilling and life changing."
She also showed love to followers on Instagram, posting a link to a Cosmopolitan article about her story and the caption, "Feeling surreal. Thank you to everyone for your continued support. #missusa #savethequeen #misspausa #teampa #muo"
Gatto will compete Sunday in the Miss USA pageant.