At a very young age, she knew the circumstances surrounding her entry into this world, but she didn’t let it break her. Instead, she let the knowledge shape her into a powerful force of faith and love to be reckoned with.

Valerie Gatto, winner of the 2014 Miss Pennsylvania competition was conceived through a wicked act of sexual assault, and her family told her about this in her third-grade year [1. The story had been censored in a way that was age-appropriate for a third-grader, but the news still broke her heart. Her mother had been attacked by a criminal who held a knife to her throat at the age of 19. She could have been murdered as well but was saved by a bright light which had terrified her assailant, giving her a chance to make a run for it.

Later on, when she found out about the pregnancy, there were several options before her. She could either terminate it and move on with her dreams of being a lawyer, give the baby up for adoption, or she could raise the child as her own. She initially chose the second option, but her support system had been so strong that’s she changed her mind and went with the third.

She never once considered aborting the pregnancy. She believed would be taking a real life, and her Christian faith never let the idea take solid roots in her heart.

In an interview with Pittsburg Tribune Review, Valerie said the light was a guardian Angel to both her and her mother [2].

“I like to think of that light as my mother’s and (my) guardian angel,” she said. “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.”

Growing up in the church

Valerie comes from a very religious home. She was raised by her mom and her grandparents, and they never once faltered in their love and care for her. She went to church every Sunday and participated in weekly youth activities, which helped strengthen her faith.

Valerie became actively involved in religion and charity when her mother was placed in charge of the food pantry at the church. She would tag along on outreaches aimed at feeding the needy, and slowly began to participate in other activities. Valerie joined hands in giving out clothes to the poor and gifts to hospitalized kids. She participated in Operation Dear Abby, an act of love that involves sending cards to Military officials overseas.

“It really dwells with religion, and my spirituality and Christianity, why I don’t let it define me,” she said. “I knew God put me here for a purpose, and he’s the reason my mother and I were saved.”

Don’t let the negative define who you are

Valerie has used her crown as Miss Pennsylvania to touch a lot of lives in her local community. From opening a food bank to distributing free clothes, she has uplifted several people who were previously mellowed by life.

She uses her story to encourage and motivate people who were born in the same circumstances as she was. They shouldn’t feel like they are lesser people or not as whole as others. She also teaches women to protect themselves from occasions that put them at the risk of sexual assault.

“And I live my life not thinking of it as something negative, but looking at how to turn a negative into a positive,” she said. “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.”


  1. Conceived in rape, former Miss Pennsylvania shares why every human life deserves protection, Live Action, August 11, 2017.
  2. So Many Questions: Miss Pennsylvania 2014 Valerie Gatto works to inspire with faith. Kate Benz, Trib Live, December 31, 2018.
  3. Operation Dear Abby Gears up for Holiday Mail Drive. Abigail Van Burren. Uexpress. November 7, 1999.
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