Every college student knows that they will come to face obstacles in their time at school. Some may be big, some may be small, and no two people will have the same experiences.
Karli Johnson, motivational speaker and crisis adviser, visited College of DuPage on Oct. 3 as the second speaker in a speaker series sponsored by Pride Alliance. In the hourlong workshop, Johnson focused on domestic violence and modern-day rape culture while giving advice based on first-hand experience. With a charismatic personality, Johnson was able to keep the environment inviting, even when focusing on life-damaging events.
Johnson has been a victim of a school shooting, an abusive relationship and helped council a friend through sexual assault. These experienced have shaped Johnson as a person, and led her to the life that she loves. She advises current college students not to stress about where they will end up, but enjoy the moments that they have now.
“Stress of the future is the reason you are in school,” Johnson said. “Almost no one knows what they want to do and that’s okay.”
She herself has changed her major three times and believes that the events in a person’s life will guide them to a future that they never expected before.
Johnson explained what she calls a butterfly effect.
“Horrible things will happen. When things are stressful and terrible, great things will happen too. I never would have believed it if my 18-year-old self said I would be in a career to talk about domestic violence but the events in my life have led me here and this is the job I love.”
In her talk, Johnson shared that many victims do not realize that they have been sexually assaulted. In order to have a healthy relationship, Johnson believes in communication and having a support group to get individuals through any tough times they may encounter.
“Communication is key. It’s so important in every type of relationship,” Johnson said. “In a romantic relationship, it is important to talk about your wants and needs and establish boundaries by talking, not assuming.”
Johnson believes that outside of any one relationship, an individual should have others to support them.
“Having a support group outside of a single relationship is important. Just having someone who you are comfortable talking to whether it’s a family member, friend, mentor or teacher can be really helpful. Someone who knows you well and will understand you,” Johnson said.
A support group of close friends may not be enough in many cases. Crisis lines are able to help both victims and those aiding them. Victims can stay completely anonymous when using any phone line resources.
“A professional support group is also important,” Johnson said. She explains that when helping another, there is only so much you can do as a friend. In many cases, professional advice can be helpful on a different level.
“I was a [resident assistant] and one of my friends came to me and opened up about being sexually assaulted. I was there for her but crossed a line and became more like her therapist than friend.”
In Johnson’s presentation, she spoke of how college students should council a friend through a devastating event.
“You can’t say it’s going to be OK. I have never said that, because you don’t know if it is. You can say it’s never the victim’s fault and that you believe what they are saying,” Johnson said.
Behind Johnson was a white board with the contact numbers of Family Shelter Service and YWCA Metro Chicago. These contacts can aid a victim, or someone trying to help a victim, completely anonymously. To contact Family Shelter Service, call (630) 469-5650. To contact YWCA Metro Chicago, call (630) 971-3927. To learn more about Karli and her message, visit www.karlijohnson.com.