Yesterday, Miss Pennsylvania told Today that she was conceived when her then-19-year-old-mother was raped at knifepoint. And she’s using her prominence to educate other young women about sexual assault and overcoming adversity in the runup to competing in this weekend’s Miss USA pageant.
According to Today, 24-year-old Valerie Gatto found out about her father when she was a kid. Gatto says her mother was leaving work in Pittsburgh when a man dressed in black attacked her, dragged her into an alley, and sexually assaulted her, and because of her mother’s ordeal, she plans to make sexual assault prevention central to her platform.
“Unfortunately, we have to be aware of these crimes,” Gatto said. “I hope to show others how to be proactive, what to do, to be present, to be aware of your surroundings, little things like that … I’m educating women about a topic that’s so serious, but it’s so awesome to see their responses. They say it changes their life.”
Points to Gatto for using her prominence for something other than anti-abortion advocacy (I’m sure they’d absolutely love to have her as an example of EVERYTHING TURNED OUT FINE FOR MY MOM SO YOU SHOULD BE FORCED TO HAVE YOUR RAPIST’S BABY). And talking publicly and honestly about sexual assault is definitely a non-bad thing. But the “man dressed in black dragged me into an alley” narrative is rarely how rape looks.
According to RAINN, 73% of rapes are perpetrated by non-strangers, and 60% of them take place in someone’s home. And only 11% of them involve use of a weapon. Gatto’s stated advocacy only paints part of the picture, and something cynically tells me that stories like this dominating the discussion of rape is what pushes people like Todd Aiken and the imbeciles who voted for him into believing that some rapes are more “legitimate” than others.
Expect none of these concerns to be assuaged on Sunday, when Gatto will be judged on swimsuit, evening gown, and interview for viewers at home, who will witness the proceedings through the patented Donald Trump Leer Cam.