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Her fiancé shot her in the face but she still has a voice

Blues singer Courtney Weaver performs in the KUOW studios.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery
Blues singer Courtney Weaver performs in the KUOW studios.

Kenneth Fiaui had always been jealous of his girlfriend. He was even jealous of her 4-month-old cat.

On the night he shot her, Courtney Weaver was preparing to go out with some friends for the evening. Fiaui didn’t want her to go.

She told KUOW’s Jeannie Yandel what happened next and how she has rebuilt her life as a blues singer and gun control advocate. Her interview has been edited for clarity and length.

He grabbed my cat and threw her against the wall, and I began to just agree, agree, agree to everything I could to deescalate him, because I knew he had the gun on hand.

Then I heard five shots go off and I covered my ears to shield myself from the bullets. I remember seeing his face and the light blaring above me in the broken window behind him.

He had this blank look on his face, like a bewildered little boy, and he looked at me and ran out the door and up the street.

I jumped up to grab my purse and I realized that I had a three-inch hole in my arm, but I just kept trying to grab my purse. I couldn't understand why my hands couldn't grip at my purse and finally, after a fourth time, I'm like, ‘Well, there's a hole that I can see through to the floor, so I probably should just use my other arm to get my purse.’

Courtney Weaver’s statement to her ex-fiancé in court – and his response

When I realized I couldn't pick up my purse in my right hand, I tourniqueted my arm with my sweatshirt.

I opened my mouth as I went to the foyer, and blood and teeth and gums streamed down my face. It was a shock. For one, I didn't have any pain. That survival instinct kicked in really, really fast. My whole thing was like, ‘I need to get help; I need to get it now.’

The self-talk in my brain was like, ‘Breathe, keep your eyes open, keep going, get help.’ It's an interesting feeling; it's something that's very guttural. It's part of our chemical makeup, like we will do anything to stay alive.

It was the most humiliating thing that ever happened to me. For one, this is an intimate, private, sacred relationship. He happened to be a charming, intelligent man who was violent.

I'm a blues singer, and now I'm the girl who got shot in the face by my boyfriend, and I don't want to be just that.

Music helped me cope not only with the excruciating physical pain but also the emotional pain of not being able to fathom why someone you love would do that to you.

There's a song I wrote called, “Makeup for that day.”

I remember the first time I saw a mirror in the hospital. They wouldn't let me see a mirror for the first 10 days. I was petrified. I had tears coming down my face.

I remember putting makeup on in the mirror and how empowering that was for me, but also knowing, well, that it's not going to hide it. But it made me feel more like myself to put on the same makeup that I’d had and put on regular street clothes.

So that song is a nod to what it means to be a woman and have your name dragged through the mud while you are coping with that heartbreak and trying to be yourself.

As a vocalist and a survivor, I feel like I have this duty to talk for all the women who are shot to death – because I had such small margins to survive. I shudder to think what my narrative would have been in the paper if I had died.

It's really liberating. No one can keep a secret like a domestic violence survivor, especially in the thick of a relationship, and there's always that feeling like, ‘I'm not supposed to tell you these things. I'm really not supposed to be talking about that.’

But it’s absolutely acceptable to say these things. It’s made me seem more human, and I think in other ways it's allowed me to really connect with people because I'm exposing a deep, painful vulnerability.

This doesn’t have a sad ending. It has a happy ending. When people criticize me, or judge me or send me hate mail, I’m much more likely to have belief in my convictions and know that in my heart, this is why I’m alive. 

This story originally aired June 29, 2016.