24-year-old Miss USA contestant Valerie Gatto has revealed that she is the "product of rape."
The current Miss Pennsylvania revealed that when her mother was 19 she was sexually assaulted at knife-point. Her mother was never able to identify her attacker, who kept himself unseen while attacking her from behind while on a dark street.
The pageant hopeful said on Thursday's "Today Show" that her mother told her "a very bad man hurt me, but God gave me you," when she asked about her father in the third grade.
"I haven’t just been preparing for Miss USA for five months," Valerie said. "It’s been my entire life.
"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."
Valerie grew up with her mother and her grandparents, who were very loving and supportive.
The beauty queen now hopes to win the Miss USA pageant so she can spread the word about sexual assault awareness..
"(I'm here) to give hope that everything is possible and you can't let your circumstances define your life," she said. "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."
The 2014 Miss USA Pageant happens this Sunday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.