ASU grad advocates for education, empathy through sex education work


Portrait of Melanie Buathier in graduation robs standing outside among deciduous trees

Melanie Buathier is graduating with two degrees — one in forensic science and one in biology with an emphasis in pharmacology and toxicology — from the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at ASU. Courtesy photo

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Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2024 graduates.

For Melanie Buathier, academic education isn't the only kind that matters.

Buathier, who is a student double majoring in forensic science and biology with an emphasis in pharmacology and toxicology at Arizona State University's New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, says when theyBuathier uses they/them pronouns. aren’t hitting the books and studying for their next big exam, they're spending time advocating for comprehensive sex education through the Sexual and Relationship Violence Program and Devils in the Bedroom

The Sexual and Relationship Violence Program (SRVP) is a resource for all students that aims to eliminate violence, discrimination and harassment, on and off campus. According to Buathier, there are two main components to SRVP. 

“There’s the education component about prevention,” Buathier said. “We do that through educational presentations, ways to get involved through our leadership program for students, and community action. The other half of what the program does is respond to violence through our victim survivor advocates, who are free, confidential resources for students.” 

With a similar mission, Devils in the Bedroom is a paraprofessional, student-run organization that provides inclusive, comprehensive sexual health and wellness education to Sun Devils.

“My route into Devils in the Bedroom began because I was frustrated with the lack of sex education in my high school,” Buathier said. “I figured college would be different, and there ended up being a student organization focused on sex education. A lot of violence prevention starts with education and understanding things like consent, boundaries and identifying healthy and unhealthy relationships.” 

Buathier has worked with SRVP for the past two years and serves as a sexual violence prevention facilitator. They are also an education coordinator for Devils in the Bedroom, in which they've been involved for the past three years.

In both roles, Buathier is providing support and comprehensive resources to the Sun Devils who need them, and helping to establish connections across Arizona State University to extend impact.

“I’m a peer educator, essentially,” Buathier said. “I would do a lot of those prevention presentations for the New College. They requested a lot of our education presentations for their students.” 

When asked what motivated Buathier, they reaffirmed their commitment to providing sex education and violence prevention in all spheres. 

“I don’t think a lot of people are interested in learning more about sex education and violence prevention,” Buathier said. “There is a lot of nuance within both that people don’t fully grasp. However, when they practice a little and learn more, they can see where those dots interconnect.” 

With education at the forefront of their work, Buathier has developed a passion for learning and sharing knowledge with other Sun Devils. 

“I really enjoy teaching,” Buathier said. “When I am presenting for Devils in the Bedroom, I plan very interactive presentations, because I want the students to implement what they are learning. Giving them the opportunity to actively learn and ask questions is great.” 

The need to raise awareness and provide resources focused on sex education on college campuses and beyond, according to Buathier, ties into the misinformation surrounding the topic at large. As a result, students may fail to understand the importance of sexual autonomy.

“People misinterpret sex education as simply being about STIs, contraceptives and abstinence education,” Buathier said. “It’s a lot more. Through my positions, I can significantly expand on what we discuss. What are the different types of sex? What is virginity, and how is it a social construct? We try to break down those misconceptions and create a culture of awareness.” 

It is important to Buathier and other members of SRVP and Devils in the Bedroom to expand conversations surrounding sexuality on campus. Through this work, they hope to help students feel comfortable in their own questions and curiosities. 

Some questions Buathier has been working through in their presentations involve topics ranging from consent to what sex looks like with physical and mental disabilities. In these efforts, they hope all Sun Devils will feel comfortable learning more about sexual wellness and relationships. 

“It is, fundamentally, my responsibility to help how I can,” Buathier said. “Sex education is crucial in these contexts because it dictates how people communicate with each other and how people respect each other’s boundaries. It also shows how people are able to maintain healthy relationships and leave unhealthy ones.” 

According to Buathier, empathy is as central to their work as education. 

“Unfortunately, a lot of people have the mindset that if you’re in an abusive or unhealthy relationship, you should just leave,” Buathier said. “They say, ‘I would never let that happen to me,’ when that might not be true. Education puts those pieces together and from that, people can build empathy and understand that it isn’t always easy to leave.” 

Buathier explained that while they have made an impact through both SRVP and Devils in the Bedroom, these organizations also influenced their self-journey. 

“I don’t think I would be the person I am without these organizations,” Buathier said. “I’m more empathetic and patient. I had a hard time even accepting the fact that I have sexual desire and that I am a sexual being. A lot of sexual shame can come from how people are raised.” 

Following graduation, Buathier hopes to continue volunteering through a medical examiner's office instead of directly entering the workforce. They have volunteered within the admissions office for 10 months and thoroughly enjoy the position. In this role, Buathier admits decedents and releases them to the proper funeral homes.

“In the field of forensic science, you have two main options,” Buathier said. “You can either go into the criminal justice system, with labs and crime scene investigation, or you can go into the medical-legal system, which would be more like the medical examiner’s office or coroners’ offices. The latter interests me more, and I want to have an idea of what I am getting myself into.” 

When asked why other Sun Devils should look to get involved with SRVP or Devils in the Bedroom, Buathier pointed to the close-knit community they have fostered with fellow program members. 

“Being involved in any student organization makes life on campus much easier and more fulfilling,” Buathier said. “I love being able to go to campus and know that I have people here, a critical support system that I can turn to if I need it.”

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