A micro–macro mechanistic approach to damage in short-fiber composites is developed in this paper. At the microscale, a reference aligned fiber composite is considered for the analysis of the damage mechanisms such as matrix cracking and fiber–matrix debonding using the modified Mori–Tanaka model. The associated damage variables are defined, and the stiffness reduction law dependent on these variables is established. The stiffness of a random fiber composite containing random matrix microcracks and imperfect interfaces is then obtained from that of the reference composite, which is averaged over all possible orientations and weighted by an orientation distribution function. The macroscopic response is determined using a continuum damage mechanics approach and finite element analysis. Final failure resulting from saturation of matrix microcracks, fiber pull-out and breakage is modeled by a vanishing element technique. The model is validated using the experimental results found in literature as well as the results obtained for a random chopped fiber glass–vinyl ester system. Acoustic emission techniques were used to quantify the amount and type of damage during quasi-static testing.