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WOMAN’S JOURNEY INSPIRES AND EMPOWERS OTHERS

6/9/2021, noon
Karli Butler is an acid attack survivor and inspirational speaker, who shares her journey and shows what resilience looks like. ...
Karli Butler is an inspirational speaker who shares her journey of life after an acid attack. Photos provided by Karli Butler
 Woman’s journey inspires and empowers others

BY TIA CAROL JONES
      Karli Butler is an acid attack survivor and inspirational speaker, who shares her journey and shows what resilience looks like.
      Butler was attacked twice in 2006. Once in March and again in May. She sustained third degree full thickness burns during the second attack. It would change the course of her life.
     Butler said, because her story was so public, she was kind of forced to share it. She wears her past on her skin for the world to see. “As much as I hated sharing what happened to me, it was very empowering and I didn’t know it was actually encouraging other people. I found comfort and peace in being able to share it on my own terms and it just became a part of my life,” she said.
     Butler said she has been finding inspiration from the most unlikely places. She said she is especially inspired by people who are walking firmly in their purpose and living their best life.
“Sometimes that looks like they’re having all these great successes but it’s like they’re doing what they’re meant to be doing. So, I’m like, oh my goodness, that’s amazing, I want to be doing that all the time. And, you can just feel their excitement,” she said.
     Butler said, the older she gets, the better her life gets and she has come to realize that she is not what happened to her. She added, being able to move forward gave her the confidence to share her story about her past.
     Butler played a role in passing House Bill 2193, which makes it unlawful to carry an amount of corrosive or caustic acid, or akili, that is capable of causing serious injury or distress to another person. It also requires people to show identification and sign a log to purchase such materials. Butler said she met with another acid burn survivor and in both cases, it was very easy for the attacker to get the acid.
     “It’s something so tiny that can do so much damage. When you look at acid survivors around the world, the product is just cheap and easy to get. And so we thought if we could do one thing that was a preventative measure to help somebody else, then it would be worth it,” she said, adding, there was a lot of resistance for it.
     Butler said she feels good about the legislation getting passed. She said it is something that helps her to sleep at night. Because she was sharing her journey, she said her website, www.burnedbeauty.com, developed naturally. “I didn’t know this was going to be my life and despite all of it, I wouldn’t change a thing. And so, it was an opportunity for me to share some of my work and some of the stories,” she said.
Butler said people have a positive reaction to her sharing her story. She said she doesn’t want to compare what she’s been through to what anybody else has been through, because everybody has been through something. “I just hope that people find inspiration and encouragement and knowing that joy comes in the morning,” she said, adding that she was not always in her present state. It was dark, scary and raw. “I think people are sometimes shocked when they see where I was and how far I’ve come, that’s the journey. I want people to see that evolution.”
     Butler said she became interested in the restorative justice after going through the court process. She said as badly as she wanted her attacker, Nicole Baker, to be held accountable for what happened, Butler also didn’t feel good when Baker was locked up. She said the criminal justice system is not rehabilitative. Butler wondered if Baker would get the care she needed to come out of jail healthy, whole and productive. It led Butler to learn about restorative justice. “It’s a philosophy where the person who’s been harmed and the person who caused the harm come together, try to repair the harm. So, there’s an agreement as to what the outcome will be. We don’t have that opportunity in the State of Illinois,” she said. “If there was an opportunity for someone who hurt somebody else to do that, imagine how powerful that could be.”
     Butler said now she looks at things so differently. “Even though I was upset about what she did to me, I think about my worst moments and if I did something to someone else, wouldn’t I want them to forgive me, and give me another chance. That’s how I lived my life,” she said.
     Butler said that in 2015, she wrote Baker a letter forgiving her. She said she never heard back, but she wanted to plant the seed. She said she hopes Baker is well, and living her life.
Butler said her resilience comes from her faith in God, her very loving, supportive circle of family and friends and her will to live. “I wanted to just live my life and really take advantage of this one shot and knowing that things will always get better,” she said.
     For more information about Karli Butler, visit www.burnedbeauty.com.