How beauty pageants helped Miss World NZ overcome sexual abuse

Miss World New Zealand Jess Tyson says the beauty pageant has given her given her a platform to speak out about the trauma she experienced as a child. 

Tyson joined the AM Show on Thursday to open up about her horrific experience of sexual abuse at age seven.

"[It was] on several different occasions," Tyson says. "I ended up telling my mum eventually, and then we took the case to court and went through the court system."

"Unfortunately he was not convicted, and I ended up having counselling and support."

In an earlier interview with Māori Television's Native Affairs, Tyson said the abuse occurred at the hands of a family friend.

"I pretended I was asleep because I didn't want to confront the situation," Tyson said in September. "It was hard because I couldn't name the parts of my anatomy I was asked about."

Tyson told the AM Show on Thursday she grew up to have "an amazing life," but didn't often talk about her experience.

"Doing Miss World allowed me to feel comfortable and allowed me to talk about it a lot more," she says.

"It allowed me to be a part of charity projects, but then I thought maybe I should do something genuine to make an impact in New Zealand... so I started Brave."

Brave is a charity to raise violence for victims of sexual violence in New Zealand, which she started in her home town of Whanganui.

"We started self-defence classes for the young girls back home... it was too [popular] we couldn't fit them all in the room." 

Tyson is off to China with Miss World for the pageant in December, which she says is no holiday.

"It's very stressful," she revealed. "You get up every morning by 6am, out until probably 10pm every day, for 30 days straight, having to look beautiful."

"I enjoy getting dressed up and everything but it's not easy. I like to compare it to a marathon, because no matter how tired or exhausted you are to have keep going."

Watch the full video above.