Allyn Walker, a professor at Old Dominion University at the center of some controversy over a book published in June, will resign from their position at the end of the academic year in May, according to The Associated Press.
The book, centered around the idea of preventing sexual abuse against children, drew criticism and even threats to the author because it discussed the matter in what some critics said was an insensitive way.
“A Long, Dark Shadow, Minor-Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity” by Allyn Walker, contains interviews with over 40 adults who admit to being sexually attracted to minors who have never committed any sexual abuse against them.
Walker said the research was designed to understand what coping mechanisms and mental health strategies are used by people who feel those attraction and don’t act on them. They hoped was that the research could be used to help prevent others who feel the same attractions from abusing children by “destigmatizing” seeking help for attraction to children.
The book gained attention online recently, which led to accusations of pedophilia and justifying pedophilia levied at Walker, including threats to them and the Old Dominion campus and community for employing Walker.
In an announcement released Wednesday, Walker, a transgender professor who uses the pronoun “they,” said they feel some of the threats directed at them and the university stem from the fact that they are transgender, but the intention of the book was always to help victims and prevent future sexual abuse.
“I worry that my readers will somehow think that I am downplaying sexual abuse against children or that I am even trying to normalize it,” Walker wrote in the book’s preface. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
For more reporting from The Associated Press, see below.
“That research was mischaracterized by some in the media and online, partly on the basis of my trans identity,” Walker said in a statement.
“As a result, multiple threats were made against me and the campus community generally,” added Walker.
The book’s preface cited Walker’s time as a social worker who counseled victims of sexual assault, some of whom were children.
Walker is an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice. Earlier this month, their research caught the attention of some media outlets —- and the professor received threats that law enforcement told administrators to take seriously, university officials said.
An online petition calling for Walker’s removal received nearly 15,000 signatures. It referenced Walker 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.”
Fox News host Tucker Carlson also talked about Walker’s work with the headline “The Left’s Depraved New Low.”
A letter sent out last week by university President Brian Hemphill noted the controversy had triggered terrible memories and caused fresh pain to people who suffered abuse.
“Ideally, we would be able to debate even the most challenging issues without disruption or threats of violence, but that is not the world we live in today,” Hemphill wrote.
Walker was briefly provided with an armed escort while on campus in Norfolk before being put on administrative leave, university officials said. Hemphill had said his “foremost responsibility is for the safety of everyone associated with the campus.”
Walker, who is an untenured professor, will remain on leave before officially stepping down at the end of the academic year in May.
“We have concluded that this outcome is the best way to move forward,” Hemphill said Wednesday.
The controversy at the state school of nearly 25,000 students comes at a time of growing concern surrounding academic freedom and the physical safety of professors as college campuses serve as battlegrounds in the nation’s culture wars.
The local chapter of the American Association of University Professors called the situation “heartbreaking” and said “(w)e should all vehemently condemn the transphobic hate speech and physical threats directed at Dr. Walker.”
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