Virginia professor resigns amid uproar over comments about adults attracted to children

Professor says goal of the research is to prevent child sex abuse

Shweta Sharma
Thursday 25 November 2021 06:26
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<p>Allyn Walker, assistant professor at Virginia’s Old Dominion University, will resign at the end of the academic year in May </p>

Allyn Walker, assistant professor at Virginia’s Old Dominion University, will resign at the end of the academic year in May

A professor in Virginia has agreed to step down following uproar and threats over their recent research suggesting the destigmatisation of pedophiles to prevent child sexual abuse.

Dr Allyn Walker, an assistant professor in sociology and criminal justice at Virginia’s Old Dominion University, said multiple threats were made against them and their research was “mischaracterised.”

"That research was mischaracterised by some in the media and online, partly on the basis of my trans identity," Dr Walker said in a statement.

"As a result, multiple threats were made against me and the campus community generally," they added.

Dr Walker sparked intense criticism online and protests on campus after suggesting it is not immoral to be attracted to minors and destigmatisation of the subject would allow people to seek help. They said potential sex-offenders can be prevented from committing crimes by developing coping strategies.

Their book, “A Long, Dark Shadow: Minor-Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity,” was published in June which includes interviews of more than 40 adults who are sexually attracted to minors.

"I worry that my readers will somehow think that I am downplaying sexual abuse against children or that I am even trying to normalise it," Dr Walker wrote in the preface of the book.

"Nothing could be further from the truth."

Dr Walker was placed on administrative leave after their book and interviews prompted backlash, with the university saying in the statement that the controversy has “disrupted the campus and community environment and is interfering with the institution’s mission of teaching and learning”.

They were briefly provided with an armed escort while on campus in Norfolk before being put on administrative leave, university officials said.

An online petition calling for Dr Walker’s removal was also launched by Kayla Foster, a senior studying criminal justice.

The petition received nearly 15,000 signatures. The petition took objection to Dr Waker’s use of the term, "minor attracted persons," and said "(w)e want to be clear that this is pedophilia and should not be considered a sexual preference."

University president Brian Hemphill said in a statement that Dr Walker’s statement would be “the best way to move forward.”

“The safety and security of individual monarchs and our collective campus are of the utmost importance,” Mr Hemphill said in the statement.

“For ODU, these will always remain top priorities as we pursue our mission in a caring, inclusive, and supportive community, one that respects academic freedom and remains willing to discuss controversial ideas in an atmosphere free of intimidation or violence.”

But researchers and the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors defended Dr Walker by calling the situation “heartbreaking” and condemned transphobic hate speech.

The association said Dr Walker "produced meaningful, rigorous research" that had "the consistent, clear aim of preventing future abuse to minors.”

Dr Walker will remain on administrative leave before officially stepping down at the expiration of the contract in May.

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