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Former Cranberry Township resident resigns from Miss Pennsylvania, cites threats

Robyn Kass-Gerji

Robyn Kass-Gerji, a former Cranberry Township resident, said she did not watch the Miss Pennsylvania competition last week, though she was expected to compete.

Kass-Gerji, 27, resigned from her title as Miss Susquehanna Valley on June 7 after she said her life was threatened by another contestant over the course of several months.

After informing the Miss Pennsylvania Scholarship Foundation about the threats and securing a personal protection order from a Washington, D.C., court against the contestant, Kass-Gerji said she did not feel enough measures were taken to ensure her safety.

“The organization had known all about (the threats), I asked multiple times what safety precautions would be taken,” she said during a Wednesday, June 19, interview. “I want to find a way to hold the organization accountable. Something should have been put in place for my safety.”

In a statement issued by the Miss Pennsylvania Scholarship Foundation, the organization acknowledged it was aware of the court-issued anti-stalking order between two contestants, issued three days before the beginning of pageant activities. The pageant was June 13 to 15 in York.

However, the foundation said Kass-Gerji never filed a grievance about the threats and “the organization was not in the position to force the respondent to not participate.”

Kass-Gerji said other contestants were also subject to bullying.

“There’s always going to be bullying … There’s always going to be someone who likes to ruin it for everyone. I have never experienced anything like this in pageants,” she said.

Prior to the threats, Kass-Gerji said she and the other contestant had been friendly toward each other in person.

“I’ve known this person for about four-and-a-half years,” she said. “I had been getting bullying text messages for years. March 10 is when the text messages started to turn a little more aggressive.”

According to Kass-Gerji, the messages started coming from a texting app phone number, then from the contestant’s personal phone number.

“She was threatening to kill me, burn my house down, stab me, hit me with her car,” she said. “And she threatened me in person at the Miss Pennsylvania orientation.”

The orientation occurred on April 13. Kass-Gerji said she told the Miss Pennsylvania Scholarship Foundation about the messages, and officials suggested going to the police.

Kass-Gerji said she was granted a temporary protection order in Washington, D.C., in May, and then by June 6, she had secured a two-year protection order.

“The judge decided there was a preponderance of evidence,” she said.

The protection order allowed for Kass-Gerji and the other contestant to compete in the pageant, saying the two could be 20 yards away from each other. In other circumstances, the two were to be separated by 100 yards.

“I think the judge misunderstood how the competition works,” Kass-Gerji said. “I think he thought it was just one night, when in reality, it’s a weeklong competition.”

Kass-Gerji said she reached out to the organizers of Miss Pennsylvania asking what extra safety measures could be put in place.

“The response I received was that the Miss Pennsylvania organization prioritizes the safety of all of its contestants,” she said.

The foundation said enhanced security measures were planned during the competition due to the situation, and Kass-Gerji was told about them. The York city police were notified and plans were made to keep the contestants separated, according to the statement.

“Leading up to that time, she also received numerous emails from the organization supporting her, acknowledging her concerns and reassuring her that a security plan was forthcoming and would be implemented during all activities,” the statement read.

Between the night of June 6 and the morning of June 7, Kass-Gerji said someone broke into her home and her car, but took nothing.

“They just broke all the locks,” she said. “The police said it looked like someone was trying to scare us.”

For the safety of herself and her family, Kass-Gerji said she decided not to attend the Miss Pennsylvania competition.

“I basically resigned the day before we were supposed to arrive. I wanted to go,” she said. “If (the foundation) had given me a list of safety measures and precautions, I would have gone.”

She said she wanted to share her story as a way of bringing about positive change and protection for future contestants.

“The biggest thing for me is holding the organization accountable and making some changes for the better within organizations,” she said.

Kass-Gerji said June 8 in a Facebook post that she could not continue supporting the Miss Pennsylvania organization. This would have been her last year of eligibility in the competition.

The foundation said it questioned Kass-Gerji’s eligibility as a Pennsylvania resident after receiving the anti-stalking order, which listed her as a Washington, D.C., resident.

The foundation said she signed a contract in April 2024 stating that her residence was in Pennsylvania and would be for at least 60 days prior to the pageant.

Kass-Gerji was asked for a copy of her current driver’s license, according to the foundation’s statement, but instead she withdrew citing safety concerns.

The foundation also said in its statement that Kass-Gerji “decided to further violate her contract and attempt to disparage the Miss Pennsylvania organization” by speaking with the media before withdrawing from the competition.

“The whole point of competing for me was for scholarships and the opportunity to advocate for those who cannot or are unwilling to advocate for themselves,” she wrote in the June 8 Facebook post. “How can I be a part of a program that has put me down when I’ve tried to advocate and stand up for myself and the other young women who have been harassed and assaulted?”

In her post, she said she wished the future titleholders luck in the competition, and said she stayed up to date on the finalists with families of other contestants.

Kass-Gerji said her experience will not stop her from competing in pageants, as she hopes to continue winning scholarships, acquiring a law degree, and furthering her advocacy nonprofit “Taking Back Power,” which is based in Pittsburgh.

“I will definitely compete in other organizations,” she said. “If I hadn’t competed, I may not have founded my nonprofit. I don’t ever regret being part of it.”

Kass-Gerji said pageants have helped her earn more self-esteem and develop her public speaking.

“It really does give you skills you can use later in life,” she said.

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