Melissa Johnson | YWCA Women of Excellence
Senior Assistant Attorney General
Office of the Kansas Attorney General
Melissa is a Senior Assistant Attorney General with the Office of the Kansas Attorney General. She is a career prosecutor with nearly 24 years of experience focusing on the prosecution of sexual assault and physical abuse cases involving children as victims of crime. She is a past president of the Kansas County and District Attorney’s Association, a past Board and Faculty member for Finding Words Kansas, a member of the Leadership Kansas Class of 2012 and current Chairperson of the Kansas Child Death Review Board.
Professionally, Melissa has devoted her career to the practice of law. As a criminal prosecutor at both the county and state level, she sought to bring justice to victims of child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assaults, and homicides. In recent years, Melissa has become a leading child sexual assault prosecutor in Kansas with a specific focus on Jessica Law cases. These are cases where even a first time sex offender with no prior criminal history will serve a mandatory minimum of 25 years when convicted of a specified sexual assault on a child under the age of 14 if the convicted person was over 18 at the time the sex crime was committed.
While the trauma a victim of violent crime experiences can never be taken away fully, the honoree, through her work, is often able to provide the victim physical security from the perpetrator and offer some emotional peace by having justice served. Melissa’s professionalism in and out of the courtroom, her compassion for the victims of crime, and her desire to seek justice make her worthy of being a YWCA Woman of Excellence.
TK: What inspires me?
MELISSA: The survivors of abuse that I work with daily. Many of them have endured horrific circumstances and acts that most of us can’t imagine. Despite that, they and their families still come forward and put their trust in law enforcement officers and prosecutors. The survivors often describe what happened to them with the hope that the perpetrator can be held accountable and so that others don’t experience similar abuse from the same perpetrator. That resilience and desire to help others continues to inspire me.
TK: What advise do I have for others?
MELISSA: Take care of yourself too. Often, we get involved in making sure everyone else is taken care of but put ourselves last. We are unable to continue to care for others, both physically and mentally, if we don’t also learn to take time to care for ourselves.
TK: What is the greatest lesson that I have learned on my journey?
MELISSA: It takes a team. Great things rarely are accomplished through the efforts of a single person. Most projects take the effort of a group of people working toward a common goal. When you surround yourself with a group of intelligent, ambitious and dedicated professionals, amazing things can be accomplished!
The YWCA is on a mission to empower women at all stages in their careers. Diversity in leadership is particularly vital to our vibrant business community in the Greater Topeka Area.
The YWCA is celebrating 31 years of recognizing Women of Excellence in our community with the theme “Dare to be Powerful.” We dare to be powerful, despite whatever obstacles may present themselves along the way.
“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”
- Audre Lorde