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A Johns Hopkins University center aimed at preventing child sexual abuse has hired a transgender professor who resigned amid controversy after remarks attempting to normalize the phrase “minor-attracted persons,” which expanded on a book about the subject.
The Moore Center for Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse in Baltimore, Maryland, announced Thursday that Allyn Walker, Ph.D., will join the center as a postdoctoral fellow on May 25.
In a joint statement with Old Dominion University on Nov. 24, 2021, Walker announced an intention to step down from a professorship in May, following controversy over the “minor-attracted persons” remarks.
“We have concluded that this outcome is the best way to move forward,” ODU President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., said at the time.
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Walker claimed that media and online mischaracterization based in part on animus against the professor’s transgender identity – Walker, reportedly a female-to-male transgender person, identifies as nonbinary – inspired the separation.
“My scholarship aims to prevent child sexual abuse,” Dr. Walker said. “That research was mischaracterized by some in the media and online, partly on the basis of my trans identity. As a result, multiple threats were made against me and the campus community generally. I want to thank Old Dominion University for giving me the opportunity to teach and to conduct my research, and the ODU Department of Public Safety for monitoring the threats against me and the community.”
Walker expressed gratitude for support from the ODU community and the assistance of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).
Yet the controversy traced back to Walker’s comments, rather than the professor’s gender identity.
Walker claimed, in a Nov. 8 interview with the Prostasia Foundation, that people can be attracted to children without acting on that impulse. The professor defended using the term “minor-attracted persons” to describe this phenomenon.
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“It’s less stigmatizing than other terms like pedophile,” Walker 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.”
The interview focused on Walker’s book, “A Long Dark Shadow: Minor-Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity,” which is described as “a study of non-offending, minor-attracted persons.”
Walker said in the interview that it’s “never OK to abuse a child,” and reiterated that point in a statement he released with the university in November.
“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. 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,” Walker said.
Walker’s interview had sparked outrage on ODU’s campus.
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“I was very surprised and shocked. I actually didn’t believe it until I saw it on Twitter,” Andrew Lambakis, the president of the ODU College Republicans, told WVEC. “I’m actually thinking about planning a peaceful protest against Allyn Walker.”
“Honestly it just sounds gross. Just because you’re not acting on it, to acknowledge it is weird and not OK at all. It feels uncomfortable to know that someone’s like that on campus,” Jaelan Jackson, an Old Dominion student, added.
Critics also faulted Johns Hopkins’ Moore Center’s decision to hire Walker.
“To retain its ethical foundation, child sexual abuse prevention work has to be victim-centred,” Michael Salter, a professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia and president-elect of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation, wrote on Twitter, responding to the Moore Center’s announcement.
“What is victim-centric about the claim that there is nothing wrong with being sexually attracted to children?” Salter asked. “Too much prevention work is being driven by researchers and practitioners who work solely with offenders or people sexually attracted to children. What these individuals say in a research encounter or forensic interview does not line up with victim report.”
“We need to integrate the evidence base to develop a comprehensive approach to CSA prevention – one that recognises and respects CSA victims and survivors as witnesses and a critical source of information,” he added.
Some celebrated the hire, however.
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Luke Malone, a journalist who has written for The Washington Post, called the center’s hiring of Walker “an incredible end to a troubling chapter.”
Neither Johns Hopkins University nor the Moore Center responded to an after-hours request for comment from Fox News Digital.
Fox News’ Emma Colton contributed to this report.