Valerie Gatto was recently crowned Miss Pennsylvania 2014. The talented and beautiful young woman has a strong faith in God and a budding career after graduating from Pitt.
While many people, some pro-life advocates included, think abortion should be a “choice” in cases of rape or incest, Valerie personifies that debate and puts a human face on the fact that unborn children conceived in rape are human beings indeed and deserve to have their right to life protected.
Beauty from ashes indeed…
Here’s Valerie in her own words in a recent interview:
Her mother was raped at knife-point and managed to escape her attacker, but soon realized she was pregnant with his child. Keeping the pregnancy a secret, she intended on giving the baby up for adoption. Unyielding support from family members and a strong belief that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle changed her mind.
Her mother’s decision to turn a negative into a positive resonated deeply in Valerie’s life. Growing up, her participation in church and the Girl Scouts reinforced the importance of giving back.
Hard work, sacrifice and a positive attitude enabled Valerie to graduate magna cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh, pursue acting opportunities and, most recently, snag the crown in the Miss Pennsylvania pageant without missing a beat in her philanthropic pursuits. And as far as she’s concerned, she’s only just begun.
Question: What in-spired you to share the story of your mother’s sexual assault?
Answer: I knew, at a young age, it wasn’t something that should be shared with my peers in elementary school. But I knew it was a topic that needed to have light shed on it. And I live my life not thinking of it as something negative, but looking at how to turn a negative into a positive. … A lot of people could benefit from this type of story — not just young women about how to protect themselves and how to prevent the crimes. It’s a story that could inspire a lot of people and, if I stay a strong person, I can inspire many other people. So, I don’t mind being an advocate for something like this. There’s not that many role models for young women out there today that are actually positive and uplifting, and that’s why I got into pageantry.
Q: You found out about the assault as a young child. How were you able to reconcile with that?
A: The version that was told to me when I was little — it wasn’t everything that I know today. The version that was given to me was definitely something for my level, and it was a lot to handle. But I also still believe, with my faith and going to church and having a church family and a close support system, that I didn’t really let it affect me too much. I don’t know if he’s still out there; I don’t know if he still exists.
Whenever my mom managed to get away, he was going to murder her, but there was just this bright flash of light, and he got scared and didn’t want any onlookers to see her and what he was doing to her. So, that light gave my mom the opportunity to run away and escape — and if that bright light didn’t appear, she would have been murdered. I like to think of that light as my mother’s and (my) guardian angel. It was always turning a negative into a positive. That’s why I don’t think I let it affect me at a young age. She always would tell me I was her light — I am the light to illuminate the darkness for all to see, and I look at it from that moment of conception, there has been that light associated with darkness, and that’s what I hope to do with Miss Pennsylvania USA 2014.