Men on Domestic Violence: 'Society Empowers Men to Abuse ... I'm Sorry We Failed You'

Men write about domestic violence experienced by women they know, in a weekly compilation of letters from the #31forMarissa project.

Photo Credit: Ideas

Editor's Note: A nationwide, month-long letter-writing campaign called #31forMarissa has just finished its third week. The campaign encourages men to write about domestic violence, sharing stories that deal with the action, reaction and inaction of men in their family or community, and the legacy of that behavior. Every single day throughout October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, #31forMarissa will publish these letters of support to Marissa Alexander. The letters will then be sent to Alexander, a Florida woman who was sentenced to 20 years in jail after firing a warning shot at a wall near her abusive husband. She neither hit nor hurt anyone. Below is a compilation of excerpts from this past week’s letters. AlterNet will publish a weekly compilation of the letters. Click here for more information on the campaign and to read the first full letter.

Join AlterNet as it engages in a conversation across generation, race and gender when it leads a Twitter chat with GlobalGrindNews — another media partner for this campaign — on Thursday, Oct. 24, at 3 P.M. ET.  It will be 140 character conversations on men, domestic violence, engagement, silence, masculinity and rage. 


Dear Marissa from A Witness in Solidarity:

“… I wonder how a shot from a gun in my family’s middle-class suburban home would have been handled by the authorities. It’s hard for me to imagine that the incident would have led to any criminal charges at all. As a black woman, Marissa had two permanently systemic strikes against her before the event even occurred. My father was a large white man who carried himself with an air of importance. When he entered a room, deference was automatically conferred upon him from both strangers and those who knew him well. That was in public. In our family, his domination was secured by violence.  My 57-year-old body is an exact replica of my father’s at the same age. I still carry such rage and shame from my father’s violence that it is impossible for me to fully inhabit this body with pride…"

Read the full letter here:


Dear Marissa from Poet Mojo D

“…Love doesn’t come with a cost 

It comes with hope 

That one day that same love will spread to great-grands and far lands 

It’s worth will only outweigh its want 

Your body 

Is not a canvas for multicolored hues of bruises 

Nothing is more striking than black skin that has been stricken with anger and hate…” 

Read the full letter here.


Dear Marissa from David:

“…While we have never met, you have impacted me in ways you will never know. I think about you daily; a poster calling for your pardon hangs in my office.  Each day as I look at your picture, I think: ‘What am I doing in your march toward justice and freedom; what am I doing in the fight against abuse and violence?’ … In 2010, your husband said, “I got five baby mamas and I put my hand on every last one of them except one. The way I was with women, they was like they had to walk on eggshells around me. You know they never knew what I was thinking or what I might do. Hit them, push them.” Reading this hurts me because it is further evidence of our failure. We rear men who think this is ok, who are empowered to abuse. Where were we then? Where was the criminal justice system that is so concerned about protection and safety? We have failed you and for that I am sorry…”

Read the full letter here.


All the letters from the #31forMarissa campaign can be read on theSWAGspot, a space created by Esther Armah's Emotional Justice Unplugged, for men by men to challenge issues around masculinity, rage, violence, fear, anger, forgiveness, emotionality and love. It uses letters, words, stories, poems and quotes as its form of communication.

To join the campaign or write a letter, email it to: [email protected].

#31forMarissa will host Google Hangouts on the topics of domestic violence, masculinity and men’s engagement in the movement. The first event took place Oct. 10, led by activist and author Jeff Johnson, with letter writers Darnell Moore and Kai Green.

Watch it here:

Alyssa Figueroa is an associate editor at AlterNet.