Salute Our Heroes: Leo Taylor leaves legacy of helping victims

In the early-1970s, Leo Taylor was a Shawnee County probation officer who had been temporarily assigned to Topeka Municipal Court.
Published: Nov. 21, 2022 at 1:04 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - In the early-1970s, Leo Taylor was a Shawnee County probation officer who had been temporarily assigned to Topeka Municipal Court.

Something quickly caught his attention among females who’d been charged with misdemeanor crimes.

“I began to see a trend for shoplifting to having been a victim of rape,” Taylor said, “and that theme expanded considerably over months.”

Taylor used his empathy to listen to the women and hear their stories.

“I think what was driving that acting-out behavior,” he said, “was the fact that they’d been victims, they were angry, they were frustrated, they had no place to turn, and the minute they came into my office and the interview started and they had an opportunity to say, ‘Look, I’m a recent victim of rape and the emotion and all of that suffering kind of spilled over,’ and not in a few instances but a significant number of those individuals came to share that information with me, a total stranger, but needing to talk to someone about their circumstance.”

Taylor knew something needed to be done and he took action.

“I started thinking about perhaps some support services,” he said, “something should be in place for those victims.”

While Taylor was instrumental for starting services to help rape victims in Topeka, he’s quick to credit volunteers who also stepped forward.

Taylor said one of the volunteers who was instrumental in starting a program for rape victims in Topeka was Kay Houser, who was able to bring together local leaders to address the problem.

“She had that kind of connection that obviously I did not have,” Taylor said.

Though it has taken on a different form over the years, the program Taylor helped start continues to benefit rape victims in Topeka.

“It has evolved over the years,” Taylor said. “Perhaps the name has changed, but the basic idea of being of support for victims of rape is still alive and well.”

Taylor said he’s grateful the program has lasted nearly half a century and he’s thankful for those who have continued to keep it going.

“Fifty years,” Taylor said. “I can’t believe it, but it has happened and I just wanted to express an appreciation for all the volunteers who spent time and are continuing to spend time assisting victims of rape in the community, and it’s a good feeling to have been a small part of that.”

Taylor, 85, a native of Detroit who came to Topeka in the late-1950s when he was stationed at Forbes Air Force Base, formerly served as a deputy secretary of the Kansas Department of Corrections, warden of the Topeka Correctional Facility and vice-chairman of the Kansas Parole Board.

He earned his master’s degree in 1980 at the University of Kansas. The title of the thesis was “A Study on the Lingering Sociological/Psychological Fear of Rape Victims and Effective Modalities of Intervention.”

After he retired from the Kansas Department of Corrections, Taylor served as a criminal justice instructor at Washburn University.