Karli Butler might just be the world’s bravest woman. The 32-year-old mum might have had her face melted in an unprovoked acid attack aged 23, but she isn’t prepared to let that ruin her life.
The horrific incident happened in May 2016. Karli was leaving her cousin Racquel’s house in their hometown of Chicago when two women confronted her.
‘I knew something was wrong, and I took off running towards my car. As I was running towards my car, they took off running towards me. I eventually made it into my car.’
‘I wasn’t sure if I should start the car or you know to fight with the woman. But she had a gun and she was trying to get the gun into the car. So I put my hands up immediately and I felt a splash. Horrible, awful – I can’t even describe the pain. My eyes burned so badly my first reaction was to wipe and you can se exactly where my eyes melted down. And then I felt a second splash on my stomach.’
Horrified, Raquel heard Karli’s screams and was shocked to see the extent of her cousin’s injuries.
‘She had no clothes on from the waist down. Her shirt was on but it was melted almost to her skin. she came upstairs and I’m like ‘what happened?!’ and she’s like ‘those girls, those girls they threw acid on me.’’
Karli was rushed to hospital with extremely severe, life threatening injuries.
‘I would sustain 3rd degree full thickness burns to 30% of my body. I would from that evening spend 6 and half weeks in the intensive care burns unit at the hospital, and start undergoing a series of surgeries. I’ve had at least 15. I have scarring on 65-70% of my body because of the skin grafting that had to be done.’
‘I first saw myself in the mirror accidentally – I completely lost it, because I didn’t know who that person was. So my life would completely be turned upside down from then on. I was in so much pain and traumatised more than I could imagine. With therapy I was able to get back to a normal state.’
‘Going to sleep one person, and waking up someone else is really difficult. No one can prepare you for something like that. I was 23 years old, living pretty much the life of my dreams, and I’d actually just started graduate school. So I felt like the world was at my fingertips and I was just enjoying life. And unfortunately that changed.’
Her attacker was sentenced to 15 years in prison for what she did to Karli, but Karli still has a lot of unanswered questions about what happened to her.
‘There was a lot of speculation about what happened to me and to this day I don’t have the answers that I want. I was angry, I was hurt and also confused why they’d do something so heinous. But all of that negative energy was negatively affecting my own life so over time I was just like, ‘I can’t live like this’. I’ve forgiven everyone involved so I hold no ill will.’
As part of her journey to turn her experiences into something positive, Karli now uses her horrifying story to inspire others. She now holds motivational talks and speaks to young women about the importance of positive body image.
‘I’m in a really great place in my life. I’m working with young women and I have an amazing 4-year-old son. And my experiences are actually bringing a lot of amazing opportunities to my life that I otherwise don’t think I would have.’
‘Your scars and imperfections are what makes you special.’
‘Before I was burnt I put so much of my worth into how I looked and my physical appearance. Beauty is much more than skin deep and I love my scars. I always say I love my stripes. I wouldn’t change a thing.’
What an incredible lady!