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Friday, May 13, 2011

Choosing Life Over Death: "The Karli Butler Story"


by Cyrus Webb (May/June Conversations Magazine)

It has been six years to the month since the incident that changed Chicago native Karli Butler's life forever. It was at that time that she was drenched with acid and expected to die a painful death. The person that survived that vicious attack and that exists today is a woman who understand the importance of life and how none of us can afford to take even one day for granted.

When her story was brought to my attention, I couldn't help but think about the challenges in our lives that sometimes want to make us just give up. Karli Butler's experiences will cause you to rethink all of what you think you know about life and what really matters. We had a chance to talk about the life-changing experience, remolding her way of thinking and living afterwards and how she now looks at each day.

This is The Karli Butler Story. Here is our conversation.

Karli, thank you for sharing your story with us. Take us into the incident that reshaped your life.

In 2006, I was brutally attacked twice. The first attack on March 15, 2006, began with a violent beating that escalated to kindapping by three male attacker. It occurred in the enclosed parking garage of my condo building and thankfully, I was able to escape from tge trunk of my car while it was in motion. During the second attack on May 25, 2006, I was held at gunpoint by two women and doused with acid. Consequently, I was severely scarred physically and emotionally. I spent six and a half weeks in the Intensive Care Burn Unit and endured over a dozen surgeries. As I'm sure you can imagine, I was totally confused as to why I was attacked. It turns out that I was attacked because of my boyfriend at the time. I was informed by the police that he was allegedly involved in some illegal street activity and they concluded that instead of the people he'd upset retaliating against him, they retaliated against me. I was guilty by association.

When you look at what has happened to you in the past, what keeps you motivated today?

 I've finally accepted the fact that bad things happen to good people every day and I just happened to be one of them. What mattered most when I was attacked was not what happened to me, but how I handled it. Knowing that I have the power to make positive changes in my own life is something that motivates me on a daily basis. Once you've come close to death you realize you only get one life and you've got to either fall to pieces or make the best of it.

You said in an interview with Goddess Magazine that "It's not what happens to you; it's how you handle it.  You can turn that negative into a positive." That is not an easy revelation to come through, especially when you have gone through something as devasting and traumatic as you. How did you get to that point?

It definitely wasn't easy. I had some really dark days that I hope to never experience again. After finally going home from the burn unit, I was angry with the world. I was angry that I was scarred, I was angry that I was in pain, I was angry that my life had changed dramatically, but I was most angered by the fact that everyone else got to move on with their lives except me. That anger and resentment only dragged me down. After watching the news and hearing about other stories of people who weren't as fortunate as me to make it through, I realized that I was being ungrateful. That anger and hatred wasn't doing anything positive for me. It was kind of like an "aha" moment and it was then that I decided that I didn't want to live like that anymore.

One of the things you have done as part of your emotional and maybe even spiritual healing is to share your story with others. Why has that been important to you.

When I first started sharing my story with others, I got a really strong reaction like, "Wow! Really?" It was almost as if my listeners were hearing the story of a hero--someone I did not identify with. I had no idea that I'd done anything special. I'm able to laugh about it now, but I jumped out of the trunk of a moving car because I wanted to live. Wouldn't anyone do that to save their own life? I still have trouble thinking that I've done anything special. Today, I've become more accepting of the power of my story. I get so much positive feedback from my audience that it reminds me that I've done the right thing by sharing my story with others. When I first started speaking I had no idea that something as small as telling my story would be both emotionally healing and empowering for ME, as well as postively impact others. It's transformed my life in ways I'd never imagined and I'm so thankful. As a survivor of violence, I feel empowered to have a voice. I can tell MY story on MY terms and no one can take that away from me. I think that's important for anyone who's been victimized.

For our readers we are looking at 2011 as a year of new beginnings, a time to reset our lives and the things under our control. With that in mind, do you feel as though each day is a new beginning for you in a sense?

Absolutely! Every day we have the opportunity to grow and change. It's never too late. Just imagine if you did not have tomorrow. What regrets would you have then?

Alot of our readers are dealing with their own personal demons, those seen and unseen. What advice would you have for them when it comes to how they treat each day that they have been given?

I try my hardest to be my best self everyday, but it doesn't always happen. No one's perfect, so forgive yourself if you forget or get consumed by the daily grind. What's most important is that you value you your time here and make the most of it according to your standards. I think we'd all be remiss to believe that we're the only one with issues. Everyone has issues of some sort. After coming so close to death, I really appreciate my life so much more now. I'd strongly advise everyone to remember that you don't know when it's your time to go, so appreciate every second because it could be gone just as quickly.

Thank you again, Karli for sharing your story. How can our readers find out more information about you and how they can get in touch with you?

Thank you for allowing me to share with you. You asked some very insightful questions, so thank you for pushing me. Readers can follow me on Twitter @KarliSpeaks or join my Facebook Group called "Acid Attack Survivors." I'm also a motivational speaker, so please consider booking me for your next event. I speak about everything from dating violence to forgiveness to self-esteem. My publicist, Briahna Gatlin, can be reached at 312-480-8700. Thanks again!

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