06/06/2014 06:12 BST | Updated 06/06/2014 07:59 BST

Miss USA 2014 Hopeful, Conceived In Rape, Educates Young Women About Sexual Assault

Beauty pageants are often derided as fluff, but a counter-argument that seems to be growing is that it also helps to highlight exceptional women.

One of these is Miss USA 2014 hopeful, 24-year-old Valerie Gatto, who was conceived in rape yet has become an advocate for educating women about sexual assault.

Talking to, Gatto showed great strength in talking about the difficult circumstances of her birth, and was inspirational in her quotes about overcoming personal hardship.

valerie gatto

"I believe God put me here for a reason," she said. "To give [people] hope that everything is possible and you can't let your circumstances define your life."

She revealed that a man dressed in black attacked her mother when she was 19, forcing himself upon her behind a building until a passing car scared him, and she managed to run away.

She hopes that winning the competition will give her an even bigger platform to talking about these issues.

valerie gatto

She added: "I hope to show others how to be proactive, what to do, to be present, to be aware of your surroundings. It's so awesome to see their responses. They say it changes their life."

Valerie, who currently works as a marketing consultant, started asking questions about her father when she was six years old.

Her mother finally told her the truth when she was 10 years old, and revealed that she almost put her up for adoption, until her mother said: "God doesn't give you more than you can handle."

Since then, Valerie told Today: "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."

But her family counteracted that by always considering her a blessing and were so supportive in her ambitions that they told her she " could be the president of the United States."

Photo galleryMiss USA 2014 Hopeful: Valerie Gatto See Gallery


'I Was Fired From A Modelling Job For Being Pregnant,' Says Lara Stone

This Proves There Is No Such Thing As A 'Bikini Body'