NORFOLK, VA – A professor at Virginia’s Old Dominion University has been placed on leave after they were accused of defending pedophiles in an interview, saying that they should instead be referred to as “minor-attracted persons” because there’s less “stigma” associated with that term.
Dr. Allyn Walker, an associate professor of sociology and criminal justice who uses “they/them” pronouns, had participated in an interview on November 8 with the Prostasia Foundation while promoting their new book, “A Long Dark Shadow: Minor-Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity.”
During the interview Walker discussed the book, which Walker described as “a study of non-offending, minor-attracted persons.”
“It’s less stigmatizing than other terms like pedophile,” they said. “A lot of people when they hear the term pedophile, they automatically assume that it means a sex offender. And that isn’t true. And it leads to a lot of misconceptions about attractions toward minors.”
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Walker, however, stopped short of actually condoning child sexual abuse.
“I want to be clear: child sexual abuse is an inexcusable crime. As an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice, the goal of my research is to prevent crime,” Walker said. “My work is informed by my past experience and advocacy as a social worker counseling victims. I embarked on this research in hopes of gaining understanding of a group that, previously, has not been studied in order to identify ways to protect children.”
The statements made by Walker during the interview caused an uproar, with critics accusing the professor of defending pedophiles. Tuesday evening, Old Dominion University spokesperson Amber Kennedy issued a statement, announcing that Walker was being placed on leave due to the backlash.
“Old Dominion University has placed Dr. Allyn Walker on administrative leave, effective immediately, from their position as assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice,” she said. “Reactions to Dr. Walker’s research and book have led to concerns for their safety and that of the campus. Furthermore, the controversy over Dr. Walker’s research has disrupted the campus and community environment and is interfering with the institution’s mission of teaching and learning.”
ODU President Brian O. Hemphill also issued a statement that condemned child sexual abuse.
“I want to state in the strongest terms possible that child sexual abuse is morally wrong and has no place in our society,” he said. “This is a challenging time for our University, but I am confident that we will come together and move forward as a Monarch family.”