VIDEO: Acid attack survivor says she's "thankful for her scars"
A MUM whose face was melted in an unprovoked acid attack is using her experiences to help other survivors of trauma - and says she is thankful for her scars.
Karli Butler was just 23-years-old when she was left fighting for her life after being squirted with the lethal substance by an unknown woman.
Karli endured 3rd degree burns to 30% of her body and was left with 70% scarring and initially doctors feared for her life.
Now Karli inspires others through her experiences – and says she wouldn’t change a thing.
Karli, now 32 says: “Going to sleep one person and waking up someone else is really difficult and there is, no one can prepare you for something like that.
“Before I was burnt, I put so much of my worth into how I looked in my physical appearance.
“My definition of beauty has definitely changed. Beauty is much more than skin deep and I love my scars, I always say I love my stripes. I wouldn’t change anything.”
Before her attack, Karli was living a lifestyle that she had always hoped for.
She says: “Before I was attacked I was 23-years-old living pretty much the life of my dreams.
“I was working as an executive assistant at a pediatric therapy clinic. So I was making more money that I have never seen.
“I felt like the world was at my fingertips and I was just enjoying the life and unfortunately that changed.”
On March 15 2006, Karli was attacked in the street by a group of five men who put her in the boot of a car and tried to abduct her.
Luckily she managed to escape when the car stopped momentarily, but just two months later she would be attacked again – with devastating consequences
Karli was visiting her cousin in her hometown of Chicago, America, on May 26, 2006, when she was approached by two unfamiliar women as she returned to her car.
Karli says: “I took off running towards my car and they took off running towards me.
“I eventually made it into my car but one of them had a gun and she was trying to get it into the car.
“Eventually she got her hand in and she put her gun on my face and she said, ‘Do it again and I’ll shoot you.’
“I put my hands up immediately and I felt the splash. It was horrible - I can’t even describe the pain.
“My eyes burned so badly my first reaction was to wipe and my eyes melted down and then I felt the second splash on my stomach.
“I remember just screaming and screaming and my skin falling off of my face.”
Traumatised Karli was rushed to hospital where medics battled desperately to save her life.
She went on to spend six weeks in the Intensive Care Unit recovering from full thickness third degree burns.
And further skin grafts and operations would leave Karli with scars to 70% of her body.
And first seeing her altered reflection was a traumatic experience.
She says: “I completely lost it because I didn’t know who that person was and my life would completely be turned upside down from then on.
“I couldn’t work or even think about my day to day because I was in so much pain and traumatized more than I could have imagined possible.”
Karli’s attacker, Nicole Baker, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for heinous battery, but the other women and the men from the first attack walked free because of a lack of evidence.
And Karli still has many unanswered questions.
Karli says: “There was a lot of speculation about what happened to me and to this day I don’t have the answers that I want.
“The police told me that it was because of the guy that I was dating. He was never arrested or charged with anything, it was alleged that he was involved in some street activity and instead of those people retaliating against him they retaliated against me and I suffered the consequences.”
Remarkably, Karli has forgiven everyone involved, and even reached out to the attacker in prison – but her attempts at reconciliation were rejected.
Karli says: “I was angry, I was hurt and also confused about why they do something so heinous, but all that negative energy was negatively impacting my own life.
“I hold no ill will, I actually wrote her a letter last summer just telling her that I hope she sees better days and to let her know that it’s a wash, but I never heard anything back from her.”
Karli suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and severe depression, but she refused to let the attack dominate her life, and through therapy and exercise.
She has since channelled her ordeal into something positive and is helping others who have experienced trauma and abuse.
Karli says: “I’m in a really great place in my life, I’m now working as a social service provider with young women.
“I have an amazing four-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.
“I’m thankful for everything, I’m thankful for my scars, I’m thankful for the trauma that has ultimately shaped who I am.
“I’m thankful for my supportive family and friends and I’m just thankful for this life.”
Now Karli is looking forward to the future and has started a website to tell her story and reach out to others.
Karli says: “Before I was burnt, I put so much of my worth into how I looked in my physical appearance.
“Now I realise that beauty is something else altogether and I want to use my experiences to be an advocate.
“I want to help as many women as I can as well as learn from them and hopefully create a community of body positive people.”