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AKRON -- Sharnae Lathan's story is one of hope and resilience.

At 31 years old, the Akron mother has been through more in her life than most people can imagine. Lathan was sexually abused for years by someone close to her.

While it's taken Lathan nearly her entire life to cope with the abuse she suffered as a child,she's turning that pain into helping others.

As Ohio's representative in the Triumph Over Tragedy: Ms. USA pageant, she has the chance to share her story on a national stage.

"I have nothing better that I could do with my life, than to turn the horrific events that took place in my childhood into a positive way that I can reach out to children," Lathan said.

Lathan says from the time she was four years old, she was abused by someone she knew well.

"I was lost for a long period of time. I experienced repressed memories. Sought therapy," Lathan said.

It took her decades of growing up and facing those memories to realize she was not to blame.

What began as a victory for herself quickly became a fight for others.

"When I'm at my weakest, I go do something for someone else," she said.

With her Akron-based organization, ThroughA Child's Eyes: Who Cares, Lathan now speaks in schools and churches and community meetings, to parents and kids.

"I have one simple message: No Secrets," she says of her effort to teach children that abuse is not something to keep to themselves.

This message won her the title of Triumph Over Tragedy: Ms. Ohio 2013.

The pageant promotes self confidence and social awareness.

In short, beauty within.

"Without these experiences that I've had, I would not be able to reach the children that I do," Lathan said of her program.

This weekend, she'll compete in the Triumph Over Tragedy national pageant.

Her goal is to become a national spokesperson for awareness of child sexual abuse.

Lathan says, after all she's been through, she already feels like a winner.

"The day I said I was a victim and now I'm a survivor--that's the most important title I could ever have," Lathan said.

To learn more about the Triumph Over Tragedy: Ms. USA pageant and to vote for Sharnae inthe 'People's Choice' category, click on the link on this page.

You can also learn more about Through A Child's Eyes: Who Cares by clicking on the other link on this page.

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