Valerie Gatto shouldn't be alive today.
The model and former Miss Pennsylvania is considered successful by today's standards, but most people would never guess she is a child of rape.
Her mother was brutally attacked at knife point when she was just 19 years old. Her attacker intended to kill her. Somehow, she got away thanks to the help of a bright light.
"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," Gatto told Trib Live.
Her mom later realized she escaped with not just her life, but a pregnancy.
Gatto's mom did not want to abort her but decided to raise her with the support of her family.
Today, Gatto is a proud graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and pageant winner.
While her life had a tragic beginning, Gatto chooses to focus on the positive.
"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 story — 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," she said.
"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," Gatto continued.
Her mother doesn't regret giving birth to her, despite how she was conceived.
"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," Gatto explained.
She says he relies on her "spirituality and Christianity" to give her the right perspective and credits God for saving her and her mother's life.
"I knew God put me here for a purpose, and He's the reason my mother and I were saved," she said.