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  • Little Girl Lost
  • Written by Leisha Joseph
  • Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9780385492409
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Little Girl Lost

One Woman's Journey Beyond Rape

Written by Leisha JosephAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Leisha Joseph

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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

"All of my Bible heroes are survivors. I guess all of the people I have met in my life and I consider to be my heroes are survivors...This book is the story of a survivor. It is the story of a remarkable young woman who did not allow herself to be a victim but became a survivor. She did not look for social issues or society to blame but turned her violation and hurt into something positive, not only for her but for all of the people in her life. This is a story of God's love and grace and a lesson of life...Little Girl Lost is her story's title but the story of her life should be called 'Little Girl Triumphant.'"
--From the Foreword by Nicky Cruz

The events of Leisha Joseph's life are sensational, but the deeper story lies in her relationship to God, and in what she can now teach others who suffer from the fear and hurt that result from violence and trauma.

As the treasured only daughter of an upper-middle-class family, Leisha, as well as her brothers, enjoyed a happy childhood. When she was eight years old, all this changed abruptly with the death of her father. The strain on her mother manifested itself in wild behavior. In between frequent stays in private mental hospitals, she brought home a string of boyfriends, some of whom preferred children and made their way to Leisha's bed. After trying to burn down the house and chasing Leisha with a kitchen knife, her mother was confined to the state mental hospital. While friends and family lent a hand, it was largely up to Leisha and her brothers to keep the family intact.

Sadly, Leisha experienced the pain of isolation because of her family situation. She found God as a teenager, but that comfort did not last long. Leisha became disillusioned with Christianity and began taking drugs until an overdose had her on her knees, promising to serve God all her life if He saved her. She was sober in an instant, and has kept her promise.

Just when she had managed to turn her life around and was a finalist in the Miss Teen USA pageant, recently graduated with honors from high school, and engaged to marry a godly young man, Leisha experienced an attack at the hands of a serial rapist. Yet God intervened once more, giving her the words that would save her life and would eventually cause her attacker to confess in court. Even when he escaped and came after her, as he had threatened to do, Leisha refused to let fear dominate her life. She rejected the advice of the Witness Protection Program, instead relying on God's saving hands.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

Our wedding was one month to the day away as I found myself clinging  desperately to Tom's strong arm in the backseat of an unmarked police car  as we drove from parking lot to parking lot in search of my rapist's  car.

I hadn't slept at all the night before. The sedative the doctor had given  me hadn't worked and my mind kept thrusting me into the middle of the  rape. Over and over again, I thanked God for saving my life. I marveled at  God's sheer power and faithfulness to be with me always. When words failed  me, I prayed in my spirit knowing that God would understand my heart. I  basked in His presence and tried to rest.

Detective Brimmer's telephone call came early the next morning.

"Because you were so clear-minded in your descriptions and gave us his  license number, we think we've located him," he said. "If you're up to it,  we'd like you to come down to the station."

I had been stunned. I couldn't remember giving the police the license  number.

Tom had driven me downtown to the old gray building and we were led to  the basement where Detective Brimmer and his partner, Detective Foster,  were waiting. Detective Brimmer had to clear the wooden chairs of  newspapers and files before Tom and I could sit down. On his desk was a  half-empty family-size bottle of Pepto-Bismol. Its empty twin was lying on  top of crumpled papers that were stuffed in an overfilled wastebasket.

"We think we've found the guy," Detective Brimmer said. "We're going to  drive you by some locations and all we want you to do is look around for  his car. If you see it, just point it out to us, okay?"

"Okay," I answered.

We drove directly to the Bargain City parking lot that had been  blistering bright the day before, but was gray and dull on this cloudy  day. This didn't feel like the Fourth of July.

"No, I don't see anything like his car."

We drove across the street to the Greenwood Mall parking lot, passing the  movie theater where I'd seen many films as a kid and the dime store where  I'd parted with many a week's allowance.

"No, I don't see anything."

"Are you sure? Look again, be sure."

"I'm sure."

We drove several miles and pulled into the parking lot of a Hostess Day  Old Bread store. My throat tightened as I recognized his car parked in  front of the store. O my God, did that mean he was inside?

"That's it," I said, my voice sounding much stronger than I felt. "I'm  sure. That is the car he drove away in."

"All right, that's all we needed," Detective Brimmer said as he slowly  drove away. "You've done real well, Leisha."

My stomach churned as Tom drove me home. I was relieved that the police  had found him so quickly, but I knew the days to come would bring a horror  of their own. Tom looked grim as he leaned over and kissed me  good-bye.

"Aren't you going to come in?" I asked.

"No, I have something I have to do."

I stood on the porch and watched him drive away without looking back.



Tom drove directly to his house and walked in without a word.

"Hello, Tommy, how did it go with the police?" Tom's mother asked. But he  brushed past her and walked to his bedroom, coming out just moments  later.

"Tommy . . ."

"Oh, fine, Mom. Fine. They found him."

"Found him! Wait, where are you going?"

"I have something to do," Tom said, hurrying out the front door.

Tom looked at the sharp blade on the sturdy army knife on the seat beside  him as he pushed the gas pedal. It looked threatening and deadly, just  like he felt. His heart burned with a need for vengeance. At the speed he  was traveling, it didn't take Tom long to reach the Hostess store. He  slammed on the brakes, grabbed the knife and burst through the door.

Inside, the bakery workers saw the knife and scattered.

"Who owns that car out there?" Tom shouted, pointing to the vehicle I'd  just identified.

The workers, who were hiding behind counters and bread racks, were  silent.

"I said I want to know who owns that car because I'm going to kill him,"  Tom shouted again.

From behind a bread rack a frightened voice said, "You're too late,  buddy, the police just picked him up."

Tom shook with fury as he got in his car and drove home.

* * *

When he picked me up the next day to go to the police station again,  Tom's face didn't show what he was really feeling and he didn't say a word  about what he had nearly done. Detective Brimmer had called and asked us  to come to the downtown jailhouse, where a line of prisoners waited for me  to pick out the one who had raped me.

I wasn't prepared for what I saw as I walked through the door. The room  was filled with somber women and children.

"Detective Brimmer, who are all these women?"

"Victims."

"In other cases?"

"No, Leisha, only one case. This one. Look, we've been onto this guy for  a long time. We think he's the same guy who assaulted all these women, but  we didn't have enough evidence to link him to anything until you came  forward. No one else has been willing to press charges. He told all his  victims the same thing: "I'll hunt you down the rest of your life, I'll  kill you, I know where you live.' They're all afraid. Not one has agreed  to press charges. We were lucky to get them here today."

I looked into the faces of his victims. Several of them were pretty,  young girls, but many were middle-aged and a couple were elderly,  including one who leaned heavily on a cane. I assumed the children were  there with their mothers.

"Don't you have somewhere for the children to wait while their mothers  identify him?" I asked.

"Leisha, those children are his victims, too."

My knees felt weak, and my stomach churned. One little girl couldn't have  been more than ten, the other must have been twelve. Who was this  monster?

Detective Brimmer stood in the middle of the room and announced: "We're  going to lead you into a room one at a time. There will be a two-way glass  wall. You'll be on one side and the prisoners will be on the other. They  cannot see you, so you needn't be afraid. They have no idea who is  identifying them. Take your time and look at each prisoner. If you see the  one who assaulted you, identify him by the number above his head."

When my turn came, I was led into a darkened room that was lit by one  overhanging bulb. The room on the other side of the glass was well lit. My  palms were sweating as I sat down at the table in front of the glass. What  if he's not there? What if he's still out there? The prisoners began to  fill the room and I noticed that I was holding my breath. I exhaled loudly  and began to look for my attacker.

O dear Lord, there he is, number five. I was certain. Something in his  eyes triggered the memory of the smell of him, and my nostrils burned with  the stench. He was looking straight ahead, not aware of the torrent that  was whirling inside me. For one brief second, I wished he could see that I  was the one pointing my finger at him. That I was the one with power at  that moment, that I held his future in my hands. But I realized that was  revenge and certainly not from God and I pushed it away.

"Number five," I said.

"Take your time, Leisha. We want a positive identification. Look at every  man up there closely."

"I'm absolutely positive. That's him, number five."

"Okay, take them away," Detective Brimmer said.

"What happens now?" asked Tom.

"Well, we need to see if any of the others will press charges. So far,  none of them have been willing."

"Not willing . . . I don't understand," I said.

"Look, Leisha, they're scared to death. Did you see the older woman with  the cane? He ran over her with her own van and she will be crippled for  the rest of her life. She feels lucky to be alive. This guy is  brutal."

A chill ran up my back like icy fingers. Detective Brimmer led us back  into the room where the others were waiting. Tom and I sat down and  Detective Brimmer told us he'd be right back and left the room. The room  was quiet, no one was talking. I looked at the women around me. I couldn't  read their faces, their expressions were blank. Indignation was bubbling  inside me and I could contain it no longer.

"How many of you are going to press charges?" I demanded, surprised at  the authority in my voice.

My words were met with blank, hard stares. No one responded, and I stood  up and faced them. "How can you let him go? How can you let him walk away  from what he did to you? Let him go and he'll be free to rape your  daughter tomorrow. We have a righteous responsibility here!"

A middle-aged woman looked away. I understood very well what she was  feeling. I intimately knew her pain, I burned with the same shame she  felt. This was a difficult task before us, fraught with risk and not easy  for anyone, yet I knew that it must be done and that we were the ones to  do it.

"Well, I'm pressing charges!" I nearly shouted. "I'm cooperating with the  police and I'm going to do whatever they need me to do to put this guy  away. We have a righteous responsibility to protect other innocent women  from him. We are the only ones who know what he is capable of and the job  to get him off the streets falls directly on our shoulders. You don't want  to get involved? You are already involved. We can't wait for someone else  to take care of this, we're the ones who have to do it, don't you  understand that? I'd like your help, I'd like all of you to join me. But  if I have to do it all alone, I will!"

And I walked out of the room. Tom's eyes grew large. I don't think he  knew what to think. He'd never seen me this way, I'd never seen myself  this way. Detective Brimmer told all of us to go home and get some rest  and that he would call us and let us know the next step. He told us all  the women and the little girls had identified the same man and that his  name was Donald Hollabaugh.



The next day, Pam Ansted, my friend and the other contestant from our  town, and I loaded the van and left for Kalamazoo, Michigan, and the Miss  Teen USA pageant. Everyone had tried to talk me out of it, but I had  worked too hard to just give up. The first few miles were jovial, as Pam  and I talked about the pageant and our anticipation, our recent high  school graduation and my upcoming wedding, until the even bigger issue  that we had deftly avoided could be ignored no longer.

I sighed with resignation. "Does everyone know?"

Pam smiled softly at me. "No, only a few people are talking about how  brave you are and how amazed they are that you are going ahead with the  pageant and your wedding. No one knows many details of what happened."

So I told Pam the whole story. Surprisingly I could feel myself getting  stronger with each word. When I finished, she was crying. I pulled into a  gas station and we were both glad for the reprieve. After I filled the  tank and took an icy Pepsi she handed me, I gave Pam a big hug. We piled  back in the van and talked only about the pageant for the rest of our  journey.

We checked in at the Kalamazoo Hilton, the same hotel that hosted the  pageant the previous year, and were assigned roommates.

There were three other girls assigned to my room, and I couldn't wait to  meet them. I loved getting to know the other girls and learning about  their hometowns, but they weren't there when I dropped off my suitcases.  The packet of schedules and events weighed heavy in my hand and I probably  should have sat down to study them, but I couldn't wait to explore that  grand hotel. I unpacked quickly and headed straight for the ballrooms,  remembering how regal they had seemed to me the year before.

Excitement sizzled like electricity all around me. The lobby was filled  with girls who were just arriving and hotel workers who scurried about  seeing to the final preparations for the pageant. I felt the familiar  strong desire to compete begin to awaken. What a glorious moment.

I stepped on the escalator to go up one floor. I couldn't believe my eyes  as I looked at the people approaching on the "down" escalator, opposite  me. There he was! He was supposed to be in jail. How could he be here, how  could he have known where I was? O God, he was only a few feet away from  me, but he hadn't seen me yet. I dropped and crouched beneath the  escalator railing, praying he wouldn't see me, my heart thumping loudly.  Dear Lord, how did he get out of jail? How did he get here? I clung to my  feet, trying to balance myself on the moving stairs until he passed. He  was looking the other way as I neared the top. I jumped from the escalator  and hid behind a large, leafy plant in a giant planter and watched as he  stepped off the escalator.

But wait, this was a different man. It wasn't him at all. What? How could  my eyes have deceived me so? Which of that man's features had connected  with some lurking memory and persuaded me that he was my attacker? It  wasn't him. It wasn't real. The fear that still burned in my veins  certainly had been.

I realized that people passing by looked at me cautiously from the  corners of downcast eyes. My behavior must have looked strange, I  realized. I raced back to my room and burst through the door, not even  thinking about my roommates. They were sitting on a bed playing cards.  They looked up but I didn't say a word. I bolted for the bathroom. In the  mirror I could see mascara dripping down my cheeks. Fortunately I had  already placed my Bible in the bathroom, which was my favorite place to  study. I loved to read while sitting on the cool tile. I shrank to the  floor, hugging my knees to my chest, and began trembling as the tears  flowed. I need to get ahold of myself, I reasoned. How else am I going to  be able to compete? Oh, what happened to me? I began to pray, O God, I  know You were with me in that car, I know You were with me all those times  with my mother, I know You were with me when Daddy died, I know You were  with me at the police station, I need You now, again, please . . .

My spirit began to calm down and I wiped my face and opened my Bible.  Like an old friend, it gave me familiar comfort and strength. My Bible  fell open in my lap to Psalm 27:

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked came against me
To eat up my flesh,
My enemies and foes,
They stumbled and fell.
Though an army may encamp against me,
My heart shall not fear;
Though war may rise against me,
In this I will be confident.


I was overcome. Centuries-old words, words that must apply to a million  human situations of pain and turmoil, but which my heart knew were just  for me, just for that moment. The living, breathing Word of God was  speaking to me and empowering me with God's strength. Thank You, God, for  Your faithfulness.

That's right, who do I have to be afraid of? What do I have to be afraid  of? God jammed that gun. He was with me. He's always been with me and  He'll be with me always, just as He promises. He is the strength of  my life. My enemy did come to eat up my flesh and he stumbled right before  my eyes. Confidence and strength, God's strength, were filling me.

I burst open the bathroom door and my roo
Leisha Joseph

About Leisha Joseph

Leisha Joseph - Little Girl Lost
Leisha Joseph is former president of LJ & Co., a Christian ministry marketing and product development company. She has worked with such organizations as Focus on the Family, Promise Keepers, and Christian Coalition. She is married and has a thirteen-year-old son.

  • Little Girl Lost by Joseph Leisha
  • October 19, 1999
  • Religion - Inspirational
  • WaterBrook Press
  • $15.00
  • 9780385492409

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