Professor who spoke out about ‘rape culture’ at Virginia College resigns

Richard Israel, a Virginia College professor whose anti-rape remarks sparked criticism on social media, said Sunday he has decided to resign from the school, and his resignation letter, published by The Washington Post, says he no longer regrets making the remarks about consent.

“It may also be said to be ‘more moral’ to conclude this interview than to continue on with it,” he wrote.

“While the storm of embarrassment has passed, the controversy over my statement has also remained in the light of public awareness,” he added, saying he and his wife were determined to put the incident behind them.

“I have reached the conclusion to be found by the Lord for more light to be shed on issues around consent, relationships, violence, domestic abuse, etc. I now, beyond any regret, encourage the public to form a holistic view of these issues,” he wrote.

Israel, who has taught at Virginia College in Loudoun County for at least a decade, was criticized recently after a local newspaper published comments he made in a segment of “Star Talk Radio,” a podcast hosted by comedian Neil deGrasse Tyson. In the September edition of the podcast, Israel discussed certain attitudes that children possess that keep them from speaking up when they are not consenting to having sex with adults.

“It’s not about kids talking, it’s about adults talking, and children having grown-up bodies and calling themselves adults and negotiating power,” he said. “They are apt to say, ‘You know what? I’m not in a position to consent.’ ”

“That’s one of the consequences of our massive rape culture,” he continued. “It’s context and context is a consent school.”

Abigail Cosby, a spokeswoman for the victim rights group Know Your IX, told The Post the comments were “very serious.”

“It is no mistake that Dr. Israel is taking heat for his comments,” she said. “People are angry, hurt and feel that what he said validates sex when it is not consensual. This is deeply concerning and contributes to the epidemic of sexual violence and rape on college campuses.”

In his resignation letter, Israel said he did not intend for his remarks to be taken seriously, and he described his experience with First Nations children in Canada as being his inspiration for the comments.

“In fact, at all times, the topics and people that I discuss are in a very specific time frame, from my perspective, as I live on land in Canada that houses approximately 1,000 First Nations children,” he wrote. “The ideas of the atrocities of colonialism, racism, sexism, as well as the remedies for the imbalance of power, resources and control in today’s world are very personal to me.”

“In my personal experience as someone working with adults to help them resolve sexual violence issues, I have stated many times that my focus on this violence has been in direct relation to relationships with adult students who I have taught classes with,” he wrote. “Many of the students in my classes or at my undergraduate and graduate programs all happen to be adults.”

Last month, a group of 20 female students, co-founded by Cosby, delivered a petition with more than 1,300 signatures demanding that Virginia College end their affiliation with Israel.

Israel told The Post he believes that if he had remained at the school, he would have received death threats.

Virginia College President Katherine Tucker sent a statement in response to the controversy.

“Mr. Israel’s comments, while clearly made as a private individual, have been widely reported as having taken place on the national Star Talk Radio show. We recognize that they are offensive and should never have been broadcast,” Tucker said. “Additionally, his comments were made in a manner that created a distance between one’s academic department and its faculty member. Virginia College strives to have a collaborative and open academic culture that is supportive of our faculty and staff. We believe this incident highlights our ongoing efforts to cultivate a diverse faculty community.”

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