A Virginia university professor, whose book and research attempted to destigmatize the attraction to underage children, has been placed on leave, the university said in a statement.
On Tuesday, Old Dominion University (ODU) placed Dr. Allyn Walker on immediate administrative leave from his position as assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice over “reactions to Dr. Walker’s research and book” which “have led to concerns for their safety and that of the campus,” ODU said in its statement.
“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,” the statement added.
Walker’s book, “A Long, Dark Shadow: Minor-Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity,” which challenges “widespread assumptions that persons who are preferentially attracted to minors—often referred to as ‘pedophiles’—are necessarily also predators or sex offenders.”
The book looks at the “lives of non-offending minor-attracted persons (MAPs),” a term used to describe the group, because it is less stigmatizing than a word like “pedophile,” Walker said in an interview with the Prostasia Foundation, a non-profit that focuses on child protection along with an “evidence-based approach” to child sex abuse prevention, according to its website.
Walker said abuse should not be tolerated and argued that there is a distinction between a sexual attraction and acting on that attraction.
People attracted to minors are “universally maligned” and the stigma surrounding MAPs is a problem, Walker said in his interview. Therapeutic intervention to get rid of MAPs’ attraction is “not really an option,” according to Walker, but “affirming therapy” can help with “strategies for non-offending.”
In a Nov. 13 statement ODU released on behalf of Walker, he said the goal of his book and research was to prevent crime and reiterated that “child sexual abuse is morally wrong and inexcusable crime.”
“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,” Walker said.
ODU also stated it “does not endorse or promote crimes against children or any form of criminal activity” in response to online attention Walker’s work and interview received.
“I want to state in the strongest terms possible that child sexual abuse is morally wrong and has no place in our society,” ODU President Brian O. Hemphill said Tuesday. “This is a challenging time for our University, but I am confident that we will come together and move forward as a Monarch family.”
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