By Lorna Rose, Contributing writer
If I’ve learned anything in my 24 years, it is that you really never should judge a book by its cover. As Miss Finger Lakes 2012, a titleholder in the Miss America Organization, my book’s cover is supposed to be bright, colorful and sparkly — and it is! If you look beneath the exterior, however, there lies a story that is a little more dark than most would assume. This is the story of me: Lorna Rose of Rochester, law student at Syracuse University and survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault.
As a teenager, I experienced emotional and physical abuse in multiple relationships. During my freshman year of college, I was sexually assaulted. These incidents played a tremendous influence in the shaping of my personality, my perspective on men and relationships, and myself. It took years for me to come to a place of acceptance for what happened, and also to accept that these experiences did not have to define me indefinitely.
While on my journey toward healing, I found myself becoming an advocate for awareness of domestic and sexual violence through the Miss America Organization. As the largest scholarship provider for young women in the world, the Miss America Organization (“MAO”) promotes community service and volunteerism by requiring its participants to dedicate their time to platform issues. In 2009, I competed for the title of Miss Finger Lakes on a platform of fighting back against domestic and sexual violence, and I won. Throughout that year, I was honored to receive feedback from events and appearances such as, “You have changed my perspective on beauty queens. We need more women like you representing us.” To know that my experiences could be used to inspire and inform people meant that I hadn’t been broken and defeated, and that gave me the strength to continue combating these issues. After all, I wouldn’t be championing for the rights of victims of violence if I didn’t have those experiences myself.
I am honored to hold the title of Miss Finger Lakes again this year, and I will be competing for the title of Miss New York in Staten Island at the beautiful St. George Theater from June 14 through 16. The winner of Miss New York will represent the Empire State on the Miss America stage in January, and I would love nothing more than to have a national platform from which to continue advocating for victims and survivors across the country. I want people to realize that they can have a beautiful book cover to a dark story, but that their story is never over and they CAN find the strength to write their own happy ending.